Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who once famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to climate change, is installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on his official residence this week.
Donated by Sungevity, an Oakland, California based solar company, the Maldives’ PV system is grid-connected and will generate about 15,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum, providing half of the residence's power needs, according to Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy, whose company donated and designed the installation for the Maldives’ presidential palace. South Korean company LG donated the PV modules, while the three inverters were provided by Germany manufacturer Kaco, and the mounting hardware by Ironridge.
Sungevity estimates the system will save the Maldives $300,000 over its 25-year expected lifespan. The system will go online tomorrow.
Kennedy’s company has made a similar bid to put solar on the U.S. White House for free, and started the Globama petition that garnered over 50,000 signatures. The petition and offer were hand-delivered to President Obama last month by 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who traveled to Washington with a group of students from Maine's Unity College in an attempt to return one of former President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels to the White House roof. They were rebuked at that time, although yesterday the White House did finally announce plans to put solar back on the roof at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the near future.
Maldives President Nasheed says his country could not afford to delay another minute, with climate disruptions already impacting the tiny island nation 200 miles south southwest of the Southern tip of India. Its highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea-level, leaving residents at extreme risk from rising sea levels caused by global climate change.
“For the Maldives, climate change is a real challenge. It is not a problem in the future, it is a problem that we are facing every day. We have more than 16 islands that are facing serious erosion problems. We are having to relocate people from one island to another. We also have serious water contamination issues due to saltwater intrusion, which lead to food security issues as well,” President Nasheed said today on a call with media.
“For us it is an issue of life or death,” Mr. Nasheed said.
I asked President Nasheed what he thought about the criticism lodged by those who deny the science of climate change who often argue that renewable energy sources like solar are too expensive to warrant investment.
Drawing an anology to his grandfather, whom he said didn’t believe that man had landed on the moon, Nasheed said:
“There is very little we can do for that kind of ignorance, other than consistently trying to tell them that there is no doubt about the science about it.”
“You really have to be more intelligent about it. And it’s very difficult for me to be telling the people of the United States, ‘try to have a better grip on knowledge,’” Nasheed said with a chuckle.
“To be going on with the obsolete technology is, in my mind, madness,” Nasheed said.
“The [350.org] Global Work Party begins with this installation,” Kennedy said of the Maldives project.
350.org has tallied over 6,000 events in 184 countries happening this weekend as part of the group's 10.10.10 Global Work Party to demonstrate commitment to global climate action.
UPDATE: Watch video of President Nasheed helping to install the PV system on the roof of his Muleeaage residence: