Solar Energy Shines in Cambodia

Cambodia is a beautiful country, yet many children stay in orphanages operated by different NGOs. To utilize the natural resources and reduce the operational cost of the orphanages, a group of HKUST students from Connect service learning program have spent the last two summers there to help build a solar energy system as the country is shiny for most of the time during the year.

Wat Opot Children Community (WOCC) is an NGO in Cambodia caring for orphans but with limited resources. Electricity expense is one of their major financial burdens. The project aimed to help them save cost by providing stable electricity and make them self-sustainable by installing the solar panels.

Starting in June 2016, a group of UST students visited WOCC in Who Wil Village to conduct a feasibility study, collect data and find out the possibilities of installing solar panels there. They measured the sunlight intensity, calculated the land area and land use and designed the installation plan.

This summer, in collaboration with our School of Engineering, a team revisited Cambodia in June again to actually build a solar panel system there with 60 solar panels and to educate the locals on how to operate it. One group of students completed the groundwork and built sample slab in June and a few students worked with technicians there to complete and document the installation. Before the trip, students had to attend workshops to learn more about solar panels and sustainable development.

When they arrived the Wat Opot, the selected location for solar panel installation was still a piece of grassland with some mango trees. The students were exhausted with the manual work but it was meaningful to them as contributing to the community. Students shared that when it comes to civil engineering tasks, they should trust the ability of local workers instead of teaching them how to do, and it’s important to manage the cooperation with every stakeholder and government regulation. When different majors of students came together, they addressed different problems by considering aspects which they have never thought of.

“My expectation was achieved that I understood more about Cambodia and the meaning of a service learning trip. I can no longer be ignorant about the outside world but explore more to consolidate my knowledge and views in the developing countries.”  – Tse Man Yi (Year 4 SSCI)

 “One of the reasons why I joined this trip was that I wanted to combine my knowledge in mechanical engineering with my passion for sustainable energy to work on a solar energy project that would help people.” – Ansh Nasta (Year 3 SENG/ MECH)

“This trip was one of the most satisfying and fulfilling trip I ever had, in the face of the recent climate changes and global quest for a sustainable future, I felt that the change has to start from me” – Turzo Bose (Year 2 SENG/ CEEV)

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