PHUKET’S 25-household Rawai sea gypsy community is overjoyed to finally have solar cell-generated electricity, after having lived without it for most of their lives, as a land-rights conflict hampered their access to the power grid.
Some residents shed tears upon seeing the lights.
The free installation of a 3,000-watt solar cell-powered system last week was the result of an initiative by Phra Khru Wimonpanyakhun, the “Solar monk” based in Ubon Ratchathani.
“In their whole life, they had no opportunity to use electricity, just buying candles at Bt20 a day to get light,” he said. “They had no choice but to face difficulties. For us to help them and see them smile, it just makes me happy too.”
The monk is the founder of the solar-cell-powered Sri Saengdham School.
Phra Khru Wimonpanyakhun also gave a sustainability policy to the community called the “Bt3 fee for endless supply of electricity via solar cells for off-grid areas”.
He urged each family to pay Bt3 a day or Bt90 a month for the solar-cell maintenance fee for a fund total of Bt27,373 a year.
“Saving it for three years, the community will get Bt82,125 to buy nine 120-amp deep-cycle batteries which cost Bt40,500 to maintain the solar power system. You also still have Bt41,625 in savings, which could be seeding money to purchase a whole new set of solar cells when the 25-year lifetime expired,” he explained.
The move could be applied to any rural area unable to access the power grid, he said. “Thailand has strong sunlight so you can install solar cells for electricity anywhere for people to make use of lights and have some equipment such as fans, because our country is so hot,” he said.
The monk said installation of the solar-cell system for the Rawai sea gypsies was funded by a Bt180,000 donation from kind-hearted people nationwide, while 25 fans were provided to the community by the Phuket Red Cross Society.