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  • Sumeeta & Hattie Gawande

SESA Funds Solar Arrays in Rural India and Ohio

SESA sponsored the installation of solar arrays both at GSG College in Umarkhed, Maharastra, India and at the Athens County, Ohio headquarters of Rural Action, a nonprofit that supports equitable economic development in Appalachian Ohio.

Explaining why SESA advocated to install solar panels at GSG College, Sushi Gawande said, “In India, we have abundance of sun, but GSG College was always having blackouts. Everything would shut down: lights, computers, internet, science laboratory instruments, refrigerators. It’s very disruptive. How can students learn when they are not sure if there will be electricity? Everything is dependent on electricity.” Thus, GSG College installed an 18-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic solar power system in January 2019 with funding from SESA. The system provides a sustainable source of energy in a region with unreliable electrical infrastructure. GSG faculty and students previously experienced an average of four hours of power outages daily, preventing the use of computers, lab equipment, and other technology, which impeded both teaching and studying. The solar power system represents an opportunity to reduce power outages and facilitate round-the-clock learning, while reducing the college’s carbon footprint. This will allow faculty and students to reliably use digital technology, fans to run during 100-degree summers, and the library to remain open even when there is no sunlight.

Meanwhile, SESA admired the work that Rural Action was doing in Athens County, Ohio, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the United States and was the home of SESA’s directors for decades. Rural Action had converted the former office building of a defunct coal mining operation into a home office that would support its efforts to restore economic vitality to historic mining communities in the area. When Rural Action sought to install solar panels at its home office, SESA joined other local supporters in providing funds. This was SESA’s way of supporting Rural Action’s work, which includes educational programs on food safety training for local farmers and producers, water quality and acid mine drainage, team-building and leadership training, and many others. The solar energy system is expected to offset approximately 86 percent of current energy usage in the first year alone and prevent nearly 700,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over 25 years.

Rural Action unveiled its new solar power system at a “Solarbration” on October 20, 2019. SESA directors Sushi Gawande and Meeta Gawande; GSG College delegates Yadaorao Raut and Dhanraj Tayade; Hattie Gawande; and many local supporters attended the event.

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