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Shining Light into Dark Corners of the World

Four days from the nearest road in the mountainous jungle, along the Thai/ Burma border, a medical training center and clinic struggled without electricity. Doctors treated patients by candlelight and kerosene lamps, and relied on a small portable engine-generator to charge batteries for basic medical and training equipment. Free Burma Rangers, a local humanitarian group, set up the facility to train medical teams to go on foot into the mountains to care for the region's numerous tribal and ethnic groups—but the primitive conditions limited their efforts.

Enter Walt Ratterman, the face of and driving force behind SunEnergy Power International (SEPI). An electrical contractor with three decades of experience working on commercial electrical construction and solar installations, 56-year-old Ratterman set up the nonprofit in 2005 in an effort to improve the quality of life in remote, rural regions of the world through the use of renewable energy. Through

In a region torn apart by years of civil war, and characterized by armed conflict, generalized violence, and human rights abuses, even limited electricity makes a world of difference.

their own projects and partnerships with other like-minded groups, the SEPI crew lends their industry know-how to humanitarian RE projects around the world.

For its latest project in the Thai/Burma area, SEPI partnered with the Border Green Energy Team in Mae Sot, Thailand, which provided local support and helping hands. Thanks to the collaborative efforts, the medical facility now has the electricity needed to improve its training and provide a greater level of care. A 3 kW PV system supplies electricity for lighting, computers, a satellite communications system, projectors, microscopes, and an eye-surgery machine.

"In a region torn apart by years of civil war, and characterized by armed conflict, generalized violence, and human rights abuses, even limited electricity makes a world of difference," says Ratterman, who spends most of his time globe-trotting to oversee SEPI projects ranging from solar water pumping systems in Pakistan to microhydro resource assessment in Ecuador.

In its three years, SEPI has worked on dozens of RE installations and consulted on numerous other projects— including nationwide assessments of electrical distribution systems in Ethiopia, Guyana, and Haiti. Next up is a solar-electric project in Sierra Leone for remote medical clinics. Then on to Haiti to build RE systems for 30 HIV/AIDS clinics and a handful of hospitals. After that, back to the Thai/Burma region for an installation on a hospital. With each trip, SEPI brings a little more light to those in need.

—Kelly Davidson

To learn more or lend a helping hand, log on to www.sunepi.org

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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