Inspire Clean Energy and GivePower Help Nepali Village Harness Solar Power

Inspire Clean Energy

Nov 9, 2022

7 min read

category: Clean Energy

Deep in the Dhaulagiri Zone of Central Nepal—more than an eight-hour drive from the country’s bustling capital of Kathmandu—lies Bhakunde, a remote mountain village with an awe-inspiring backdrop: the infamous Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountain ranges. With some of the highest peaks in the world, the seventh and tenth, respectively, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna are known far and wide, particularly in the climbing community. But what most folks don’t know is that Dhaulagiri (translation: dazzling white mountain) is a harbinger of climate change. 

Once pure white from top to bottom—hence its name—Dhaulagiri now has visible snowless patches as a result of a rapidly warming climate. While this is an unmistakable sign that things are heating up in Nepal, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the entire country is highly susceptible to climate change and has experienced increasing temperatures at a faster rate than the rest of the world.* In fact, despite being a negligible contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, Nepal is ranked as the fourth most vulnerable country to the impacts of the climate crisis.** Glaciers are melting, lakes are overflowing, villages are flooding, new diseases are affecting crops, droughts are forcing people to travel farther to find potable water, and monsoons are intensifying.

For Bhakunde, intensified and extended monsoon seasons result in unreliable power throughout the village—sometimes for months at a time. This is particularly problematic at its health post (i.e., hospital), where women from Bhakunde and the surrounding communities come to give birth. Imagine giving birth in the middle of the night with no power: no lights, no lifesaving technologies, no baby warmers. The lack of reliable electricity increases the risks associated with these births as well as mortality rates. 

It’s for this reason that Inspire employees, in partnership with the nonprofit GivePower, embarked on a journey to Bhakunde to help provide reliable power for the village’s essential health post.

Inspire x GivePower

Inspire believes in a world where everyone has access to clean energy, so it was only natural to partner with GivePower, a nonprofit that provides solar-based solutions to secure food, water, and electricity for people in regions that need them most. Since 2018, Inspire and GivePower have worked together to provide clean energy to communities that have been disproportionately affected by climate change. Over the years, Inspire employees have traveled alongside our partners at GivePower to install solar-powered energy and water-pumping systems in remote villages.

Final Destination: Bhakunde Village, Nepal

In September 2022, eight Inspire employees boarded planes to Nepal to meet up with the GivePower team in the country’s most populous city, Kathmandu, to kick off the fourth trek of the partnership: installing a solar microgrid on a health post in Bhakunde. Following a quick orientation, a visit to a local Buddhist temple, and a few winks, the trekkers were off to the local airport to board a smaller plane to the tourist destination of Pokhara. After a night of bonding and level-setting expectations for the project ahead, the crew (nicknamed the Kathmancrew) climbed into two Jeeps for a four-hour, sometimes-off-road excursion to the village of Bhakunde. While they played 21 questions to pass the time, the trekkers couldn’t help but think how difficult it was to reach the village. “Throughout the trip, we were commenting about how hard it must be to get supplies to Bhakunde or to do construction or repairs,” says Hannah Francis, Senior Associate of Sustainability & Social Impact.

The Kathmancrew posed on the stairs of Swayambhu, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site located atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley.

The Warmest of Welcomes

Upon arriving in Bhakunde, the trekkers were greeted with an outpouring of hospitality. “When we crested over the hill where the health clinic was, all the villagers were there, and the women were wearing saris and beautiful dresses; they greeted us with flower blessings and a blessing on the forehead with a pigment called tika,” explains Cy Serrano, Director of Product, Pricing Services. “They welcomed us to the village with smiles—it was a nice way to be greeted.”

The trekkers received a warm welcome from the Bhakunde community, with handmade floral necklaces and tika, a red powder applied to the forehead as a blessing.

Work Hard, Play Hard

After a quick detour to drop off items at their homestays with their host families, the trekkers immediately got to work alongside two Nepali engineers to build a 16-panel solar microgrid atop the health post. On day one, one team was responsible for digging six-foot holes behind the health post for a lightning rod (to protect the building against lightning strikes) while another team sawed metal to make frames for the panels and the last team carried 150-pound batteries up stairs to the battery room. On the second day, the Kathmancrew finished digging the holes (six feet is deep!) and hoisted the solar panels onto the roof of the health post. “Normally, GivePower treks call for three days of work, but we have a stellar team—and we got it done in two!” says Lindsey Peoples Tod, Senior Manager of Program Management & Sales Support. 

As an added bonus, fellow mission-driven B Corp MPOWERD provided some of the community with solar-powered inflatable lanterns to be used by the host families, the health post, and the school to light up their lives even more. After all, you can never have too much good, clean solar power on hand.  

The team assembled in front of the health post before the project begins.

Left: Neema Yousefi helped carry a solar panel up to the roof. Right: The team hoisted solar panels onto the roof by passing them one by one, in formation. 

Inspire trekkers helped GivePower’s lead project engineer affix the solar microgrid’s framing to the roof. 

While the project was in full swing, GivePower provided art programming for the kids in the community. Cy Serrano and Jess Bologna took a break from the build to paint on canvases with the kids and help them mix paint colors.

The children held an auction with the finished paintings to raise money for their school. 

As the first group in GivePower history to finish their project in just two days, the team was afforded time to revel in the natural beauty of Nepal.

The Big Reveal

To celebrate the completion of the project, the village hosted a Lighting Ceremony (picture an all-night dance party). The community and trekkers gathered together for a program of speeches, dancing, and finally a countdown. When they reached 0, the lights in the clinic switched on—powered by solar energy stored in the batteries. “One thing that really impacted me at the ceremony,” says Francis, “was that the president of the ward presented a check to pay for 20 percent of the project. So the community was highly invested. Witnessing the gratitude from people in the community and how much they were excited really stuck with me.”

Final Thoughts

While Inspire and GivePower undoubtedly improved the lives of those in Bhakunde by helping to ensure their health post always has a reliable power source, members of the Kathmancrew feel their lives have been enhanced in myriad ways as well. By all accounts, there’s a certain type of magic conjured when you’re given a unique opportunity to see a renewable energy solution come to life firsthand in a remote part of the world. From developing a stronger sense of teamwork to persevering through challenges, the trekkers came back to Inspire reenergized and reinvigorated—with a renewed sense of dedication to Inspire’s mission. “We’ve been given the chance to crystallize in our minds the effects of climate change and also the solutions—through an experience,” Francis explains. “I feel like I’m energized to scream it from the rooftops, to talk about our program and how important these projects are. It’s such a different feeling than watching a spreadsheet number go up.”

To witness the Kathmancrew in action, check out the video below.

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