“I am really afraid of this coming winter. How will I stay warm? How will I pay for electricity?”
This is a common sentiment among many people in Kyrgyzstan facing inevitable power cuts and rising electricity and heating costs. In 15 years of living Kyrgyzstan I have never heard so many people concerned over how they will keep their families warm during these coming cold months. The water reservoir which powers Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric power plant (the only source of electricity) is dangerously low. Coal and electricity are the main source for many people in heating their homes.
In an attempt to respond to this need, Operation Mercy and partner has begun building and testing a simple solar heating unit built from locally available materials. This heater is a basic insulated wooden box using aluminum cans to heat air which is pulled from and returned to the house. It can run on 220 V or a small 12 V battery when there is no electricity. Kyrgyzstan averages about 300 days per year of sunshine and we believe this has the potential to reduce the dependency on coal and electricity, therefore lowering the financial burden and reducing the environmental impact of burning coal.
We have begun training two local men to build these solar heaters and will continue to equip them to build heaters on their own for installation in their villages.
The Solar Heating Units builds on an existing Home Efficiency project that we have been running in the South of Kyrgyzstan. This includes building efficient wood/coal burning stoves and training on home heating efficiency and insulation techniques. With a combination of training and the introduction of appropriate technologies from locally available materials, we plan to help families address their need for inexpensive heating while conserving the environment and equipping local men to produce the heaters.