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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – June 23, 2003: Solar Electric Light Fund - 2003-06-22

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Electric power has yet to reach some places in the world. In fact, a group called SELF estimates that about two-thousand-million people, or one in three, do not have electricity. This non-governmental organization is working to change the situation.

SELF is short for the Solar Electric Light Fund. The organization is based in Washington. It provides communities and governments with solar electric systems. These systems use what is called photovoltaic technology to change sunlight into electricity. The group says solar electric systems can be set up quickly in any village anywhere in the world. And they are safe for the environment.

A small solar electric system can feed a home, school or health center with several hours of electricity each day. Collectors placed on top of a building take in heat from the sun. This energy is then sent to a storage battery used to power equipment. A special charge controller is also needed to help direct the flow of electricity.

SELF has solar electric programs in many developing countries. In South Africa, two schools along the country’s east coast use solar electric systems for lighting, televisions and computer centers. In the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific, SELF is working to bring electricity to twelve health centers in the eastern province of Temotu. The islands within this province are about three-hundred-fifty kilometers away from the rest of the nation.

And in Brazil, scientists working in the Amazon rainforest use a solar electric system to power satellite communications equipment. Researchers communicate with other teams working in the rainforest.

SELF says energy from the sun is the only dependable way to meet the electricity needs of poor villages. Many communities still use candles, batteries and fuel-powered lights at night. Health centers do not have power to keep medicines cold. Schools have no electricity for copy machines or computers.

The group says solar energy, combined with wireless communications technology, can help bring less developed parts of the world into the twenty-first century. SELF is on the Internet at

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.