Venezuela Bringing Solar Energy to the Andes

An innovative government program provides free solar panels and solarpowered water purification systems in rural and remote communities across Venezuela.


On Wednesday, March 31st,the Venezuelan government’s green energy program,“Sembrando Luz” (“Sowing Light”), finalized the installationof 15 solar systems of 300 watts each in the rural community of Rio Blanco, Trujillo.

More than 1,000 solar panels and solar powered water purification systems have been installed throughout the country in regions difficult to connect to the conventional electricity grid through this environmentally friendly program.

A vast portion of Venezuela is rural, with some areas in the Andean and Amazonian states only reachable by foot, canoe or mule.

“We don’t just provide electricity”, explained Christoper West, a British physicist working on the project in the Andean region.“We also provide drinking water to these communities, using solar powered pumps and water purification and desalinizer systems. So there’s a health element to the programas well. We’ve installed over one hundred of these systems to date”, he added.

First Light

After the installation of the solar systems in Rio Blanco, a remote community more than an hour outside of Boconno, the nearest town, the excitement in the village was brimming. “The children were really excited to have electricity for the first time”, remarked West. “One older woman actually cried because she’d never seen electrical light in her entire life”.

As one of the world’s largest producers of petroleum, previous governments in Venezuela had little interest or concern about other sources of energy or infrastructure development in the vast rural interior of the country. Ironically, since the beginning of the twentieth century, Venezuela has been about 75% dependent on hydroelectric power. A recent drought and a decades-old failure to invest in infrastructure and maintenance of the hydroelectric generators have spiraled the nation into an energy crisis.

The innovative “Sembrando Luz” project takes energy conservation a step further by actually developing new sources of renewable, green energy. Its emphasis on rural, remote, low income communities demonstrates the Chavez Administration’s committment to reducing poverty nationwide and ensuring that all citizens have access to basic services. The program is now finalizing the installation of 40 solar systems of 600 watts each in the communityof El Quino, Merida.