U.S. Group Installs Ten Thousand Solar Systems

A company in Maryland has sold 10,000 solar energy systems in developing nations around the world.

CHEVY CHASE, Maryland – The Solar Electric Light Company says the 10,000th sale was made in December, based on current sales rate of solar electric wireless power systems. The group includes SELCO-India, SELCO-Vietnam and RESCO Asia Ltd. (Sri Lanka). “We’re very pleased to finally reach this milestone after little more than three years in this challenging electricity market,” says chairman Neville Williams. “With business doubling every year and our subsidiaries expected to be profitable this year, we are looking forward to a prosperous and productive 2001.” “The faster we grow, the quicker more households can enjoy electric light and appliances, including televisions, VCRs, fans, cell-phones and even PCs,” he adds. “We believe access to the Internet will not be far behind our expanding wireless power network.” The solar home systems (SHS) sell for $500 to $700, and are purchased from SELCO for cash or through third party credit programs that are provided by banks and credit institutions. Commercial banks and agricultural societies provide loans for SHS in India, while the World Bank, International Finance Corp. and Global Environmental Facility contribute to SELCO’s consumer finance programs in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The SELCO companies have 160 employees around the world and sell SHS through rural networks of company-owned or franchised solar service centers. The solar systems range in size from 35 to 75 peak watts. Customers in Sri Lanka and Vietnam prefer larger systems to power color TVs and VCRs, and SELCO-India has installed the largest number of systems. SELCO has installed 500 kilowatts of solar PV in total, with solar panels being used in 1 kW solar water pumps, 2 kW institutional and commercial power systems, large custom residential installations, solar streetlights and telecom module sales. “Ramping up to a megawatt a year is our immediate goal, while also expanding into new markets,” says president Larry LaFranchi. “Another measure of our progress is that our year to year growth rate currently exceeds one hundred percent.” In addition to providing lighting in many remote communities around the world, the use of solar energy also reduces the health hazard of using kerosene. In addition, a single SHS displaces 7 tons of carbon emissions over its 20 year lifetime, and SELCO is one of the first solar energy service companies to sell some if its future “carbon credits” in the carbon offset market. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, 400 million homes with two billion people lack access to grid electricity. Solar energy is promoted as a viable alternative to extending existing transmission lines. Many families spend $10 per month to purchase kerosene, candles or batteries to meet minimal lighting and power needs, which is the approximate level required to purchase a PV system that can power compact fluorescent lamps, radio-cassette player, black-and-white television and other small appliances. SELCO solar home systems use components manufactured under company specifications and integrated with PV modules produced by Siemens Solar, BP Solar (Tata-BP Solar in India), and United Solar Systems. Its subsidiaries and affiliates assemble, market, finance, install and service the systems. SELCO was founded in 1997 from the Solar Electric Light Fund.

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