Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solar for elephants, cheetahs and lions

Eric Wesoff | September 28, 2009 at 12:04 AM

African elephants, Ethiopian wolves, Andean cats and cheetahs are on the run. Habitat loss, encroaching human populations, disease and pollution are threatening their existence. Do you want your or your children's generation to be the last to know these creatures in the wild? To let them go the way of the thylacine?

If you're reading this website you are likely passionate about green technology. The markets are enormous and growing and there is the potential to make lots of money. Investors like Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners have tried for years to decouple greentech from its hippie, save-the-world roots. Ira has long insisted that the green in greentech is about greenbacks, not about vegan, yoga-practicing, tree-sitting, save the whales, kill the seals, recycling, granola-crunching wiccans.

Sorry Ira. Time to help save the world. At least in today's blog. We'll return to making money tomorrow.

The Wildlife Conservation Network works to protect endangered species and preserve their natural habitats. The organization supports innovative strategies for people and wildlife to co-exist and thrive. The WCN has a solar project, and it needs donations of solar equipment.

Dedicated conservationists all over the globe are studying species in decline and trying to learn enough to save them. They live and work in extreme environments and they need electricity to run their camps, power their communications and just keep their modest facilities in repair.

The WCN Solar Project designs, assembles and ships solar electric systems to conservation projects in the field. By providing a reliable source of energy for everything from lights and laptop computers to GPS systems, the Solar Project is making a real impact on critical efforts to protect endangered species. They are using this electricity to conduct cutting edge research like tracking elephants in real-time via GPS, powering VSAT computer links at 15,000 feet in Ethiopia, and many other state-of-the-art programs.

Many conservationist camps get power from diesel generators or in some cases off of their jeep battery. Try getting barrels of diesel fuel to 14,300 feet elevation in Ethiopia on a predictable schedule. How are you going to refill your lead acid batteries with distilled water in the bush in Botswana?

Solar power is an obvious solution to these problems. Solar provides electrical power but these conservationist camps are also beginning to work with solar cookers, solar water pumps, and solar water purification. Less obvious is how a shoestring outfit like the WCN is going to afford them (even with a plunging PV cell ASP).

The Wildlife Conservation Network's solar project is also on the cutting edge of efficient green lighting – illuminating their camps with solid state lighting donated by startup Lumiette, a flat-panel florescent lighting company we covered here. That's right – donated lighting and donated solar. BP Solar has already donated 300 solar panels, the appropriately named Outback Power has donated off-grid inverters, Lumiette has provided lighting, MK Batteries has provided L16 deep-cycle batteries and Beronio Lumber has donated plywood for shipping the equipment.

In the words of solar power recipient Dr. Laurence Frank of Living with Lions in Kenya: “It works – the project is lit up, the satellite-internet system is working, and I don’t hear a generator!”

For Rebecca Klein of Cheetah Conservation Botswana: “It was very exciting to turn on the light switch for the first time and know that the energy making it all possible is completely sustainably produced.”

Founder of the WCN Solar Project, Stephen Gold commented: "You need to think about everything that could possibly go wrong – it's kind of like going to the moon. You have to bring along everything – nuts, bolts, wiring, plugs, spares, instruction manuals."

If you're interested in further details you can visit these sites. One-hundred percent of any donation can be designated to the conservation of a specific species.

Ethiopian Wolves (only a few hundred remain)
Snow Leopards
Small Cats
Painted Dogs (only 3,000 remain)
Predator conservation

WCN is having a Wildlife Conservation Expo and Garden Party on October 3 to 4 in San Francisco where you can hear conservation heroes from across the globe, including Dr. Jane Goodall, share inspiring stories about the endangered animals they work to protect and how you can get involved.

So – come on, Suntech (Andrew, cowboy up, it's not like we need custom sizes), SunPower (Julie – who is the contact at SunPower for a community project like this?), Sanyo, SMA, Q-Cells, Enphase et al. The organization also accepts cash donations. If you'd like to donate – contact the organization or contact me and I will get you to the right people.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

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