Saltwater solar has an ongoing relationship with local organisations in two regions of East Timor, Oecusse and Atauro Island. Since 2007, Oliver has been involved in numerous renewable energy projects in these locations as a volunteer project coordinator with the Alternative Technology Association. He has also managed community consultation and needs assessment studies for the Rotary Club and Australian Friendship Groups. Saltwater Solar has been engaged as the contractor to design and manage the installation of community renewable energy and water supply projects in East Timor for local NGOs and international aid organisations.
In many remote island communities of Eastern Indonesia, access to energy technology is difficult. Cooking is often done with hard-to-find firewood and lighting with subsidised kerosene. Some communities have communally owned generators and pay a monthly fee. Typically this would supply 6 hours of electricity each night for lights and television. But parts and fuel are expensive and often there is no power at all. Some islands that have been home to families for generations are actually not recognised by the Indonesian bureaucracy as inhabited, so are not eligible for subsidies or other government services. On visits to some of these islands by sailboat, these needs are apparent. After learning of his profession, Oliver has received several requests for solar lighting, and has since provided small solar lighting systems to villagers in South Sulawesi, Flores and West Papua. One of the things about living in some of the most beautiful and natural parts of the world is that access to the cash economy is limited. But on the flip-side, islanders have hundred's of years of trading experience with passing travellers, and offer other products unique to their home to make both parties happy with the trade. We have swapped solar systems (installed) for hand-made sarongs, red sugar syrup, and engine repairs. See Sour Sailor Island Cruises blog for more stories.
The remote communities of Arnhem Land offer a unique insight into indigenous life in Australia, away from the busy streets and dependable power of the city. Over the past decade, Oliver and the Saltwater Solar team have invested themselves in building and maintaining solar systems, providing access to clean and consistent power for First Nations communities. Some of these places are difficult to access and are far away from any grid-connected power. Recently, the team built a new off-grid system in Dhudupu, close by to the local town of Galiwin’ku. This system has the capacity to power the houses of Dhudupu, providing lighting, refrigeration, and other power needs. Systems like these are essential not only for the community’s wellbeing, but also to encourage more people to live in these areas, maintaining the culture and traditions of the land that have been passed down through generations. Saltwater Solar is involved is many different solar projects across Arnhem Land, engaging with people and helping to provide insight into power and solar use.