INTERVIEW WITH JASON GRAY OF SUNFARMER, PART I
ELSE caught up with Jason Gray, co-founder of SunFarmer, for a quick question and answer session about the Siddheswor PV project, the founding of their non-profit, and daily life in this remote Nepali village. Part 1 of 2.
ELSE: How was SunFarmer founded?
Jason: Andy and I founded SunFarmer last year. Through our travel and work in development, we have witnessed first-hand the negative impacts of not having energy access or situations where energy access was prohibitively expensive. Together, we decided to take the lessons we learned in developing solar in North America, specifically in relation to financing, to make solar an affordable and viable option.
ELSE: Why did you choose to begin working in Nepal?
Jason: As a developing nation, 57 percent of Nepal’s population lives on less than $2 US per day. Electricity needs to be affordable, but it isn’t. The lack of local energy sources results in Nepal importing the majority of its fuel, specifically fossil fuels. Wood is also another common fuel source. Only 40 percent of Nepali people have access to electricity and in rural communities, this number drops to 5 percent.
ELSE: What is solar’s impact in the region from this site?
Jason: The six projects we are presently working on are predominately maternal health clinics, each delivering between 80 to 120 babies per year and serving 67,000 community members. Without solar, there is no reliable source of electricity, so babies are born by flashlight, sterilization can’t occur, and suction (which assists delivery) can’t be powered. With solar energy powering the clinics, we expect reduced neonatal and maternal mortality rates, but measuring this impact will take time. It is also important to note, that access to basic electricity also assists with staff retention and therefore leads to higher quality services for the communities. Clinic healthcare workers are often from and trained in larger cities and the ability to use a radio and communicate with family can go a long way in retaining them.
ELSE: What is daily life like in Siddheswor?
Jason: The area is rural and primarily agricultural.
ELSE: What is our pledged $5,500 going towards?
Jason: All of the funds are going to equipment and installations costs; none is going to overhead.
ELSE: What is the Siddheswor’s project timeline?
Jason: The Siddheswor project will be activated any day now, as construction is currently underway. SunFarmer covered construction financing, while ELSE is covering term financing.