Solar power for rural electrification in Suriname

Solar panels, Suriname. Image: via IADB

A report from the Inter-American Development Bank on Suriname’s first solar power plant for rural communities:

The plant, with a capacity of 500 kW, will provide 24 hours electricity to the rural community of Pokigron and to Atjoni under the operational responsibility of EBS, the state-owned electric utility of Suriname, and with financing from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

It is estimated that 10% of Suriname’s population lives in rural communities (54,000 Maroons and 8,000 Amerindians. The majority are Maroons, descendants from African slaves who escaped into the interior of the country from the sugar cane fields, creating different independent tribes (Saramacca, Paramaccaa, Ndyuka, Kwinti, Aluku, and Matawai).

Pokigron, inhabited by Saramacca, is the last community accessible by road in the district of Sipaliwini, which covers most of the interior and the virgin forest of the country. Between Atjoni and Pokigron there are about 400 homes. These two locations share several facilities, including a primary school, a secondary school, a clinic and several supermarkets, which also serve the communities located in the Upper Suriname River. Every day dozens of boats leave to more than 50 communities located along the Upper Suriname River. It is estimated that around 15,000 Saramaccans live in these communities, only accessible by boat. Atjoni is, therefore, a communications and service hub for all these communities, which will also benefit from the project.

Until the inauguration of the solar plant, the electricity in these two communities was supplied by a pair of diesel generators of 700 kW capacity, which operated with great limitations, supplying electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day in the best case. The electricity was supplied with no charges to customers, which affected the quality of the service in a vicious circle. It is estimated that in Suriname there are another 135 indigenous communities in the same situation. The economic recession that affected the country during the last years resulted in irregular supply to the communities and generated an important expense for the government. In this context, the inaugurated plant responds to one of the main priorities of the government of Suriname: promotion of renewable energies, mainly solar and mini-hydraulic, to supply 24 hours emission-free electricity in isolated rural communities, which also contributes to the economic and social development of these isolated communities.

Read more in the full IADB post.

Previously on Green Antilles, CARICOM Energy Personality of the Year: Suriname’s Hannah Olmberg-Soesman. Ms. Olmberg-Soesman won the award for her work introducing off-grid solar systems to remote rural communities in Suriname.

[Image: via IADB]

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