The World’s First Solar-Powered Refugee Camp in Thailand
April 12, 2013
Solar power has been in the news a lot lately. The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) reports that 2012 was a record year for the solar industry, particularly in the U.S., where the solar market grew 76% between 2011 and 2012. The United States now has the solar capacity to power 1.2 million homes and employ nearly 120,000 people. In Germany, solar production increased by 44% from 2011 to 2012. In France, solar production increased by 67% during that time.
No story is quite as inspiring, however, as the story of the Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp in Thailand. In 2012, Koung Jor Shan became the world’s first solar-powered refugee camp. With the help of The Branch Foundation—a New Zealand-based non-profit that works in Southeast Asia to implement sustainable community development projects—Koung Jor Shan was able to install enough solar panels to provide electricity for over 600 residents. The solar panels also power one communal computer for the camp’s education center.
Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp—situated in Chiang Mai, Thailand, just south of the Thai-Burma border—was formed in 2002 after violence broke out between the Burmese military and the Shan State Army. Its residents initially relied on Kerosene lamps and candles for light. In 2009, The Branch Foundation began actively working with Koung Jor Shan, promoting several other sustainable development projects before completing the solar panel installation in 2012. Given the success of the Koung Jor Shan project, The Branch Foundation hopes to pursue similar projects for other marginalized Southeast Asian communities
There are many Faces of Climate Change at Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp—the faces of the Burmese refugees, committed to living sustainably; the faces of the camp’s children, now able to study after the sun goes down; the faces of The Branch Foundation volunteers, working to improve the lives of the camp’s residents.
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