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Renewable Future: Myanmar to be Powered by Off-Grid Solar Energy by 2030

Dec 09, 2016 04:40 AM EST

In 2014, only 16 percent of rural homes in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar have access to electricity. But a new initiative from the Myanmar government and its private partners plans to provide electricity to the whole country in part by using off-grid solar energy.

The new power source could supply electricity to rice farms and lighting streets and residences, with the goal of bringing electricity to the whole country by 2030, The Guardian reports.

Companies are contributing to the development of off-grid solutions in the country. Myanmar Eco Solutions, a for-profit renewable energy firm, recently set up a solar-powered irrigation system for rice farmers in the southern Myanmar region near Pathein.

Laos-based solar developer Sunlabob also installed solar mini-grids in 11 villages in the provinces of Shan and Chin. The system enables residents to power low-voltage electrical items such as lights, small televisions and mobile phones.

"Our original idea was to supply solar home systems because they are relatively affordable," Ben Frederick, head of operations from Myanmar Eco Solutions, told The Guardian.

According to Inhabitat, off-grid solar could help make electricity accessible to communities across Myanmar, as traditional alternative power sources like diesel generators are far too expensive for poverty-stricken areas in the country. Despite being the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar still ranks 148th of 188 countries on the United Nation's benchmark development index, with the highest levels of poverty concentrated in rural areas, World Bank reports.

Currently, almost all of Myanmar's off-grid projects are either government-funded or donated. Panasonic recently installed a Power Supply Container in the settlement of Yin Ma Chaung using charity funds via Mitsui & Co. The off-grid station generates 2.82 kilowatts of energy for the settlement and nearby villages.

According to The Guardian, the Yin Ma Chaung area is populated by deadly snakes, and the life saving anti-venom needs to be refrigerated. Without electricity, the anti-venom is stored in coolers that frequently break down, resulting in deaths of about 500 per year.

To alleviate the problem, a portion of the newly installed solar power systems is currently being used for a new community refrigerator that would keep doses of the anti-venom chilled.

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