Professor IM (Dharme) Dharmadasa (1977 Commonwealth Scholar from Sri Lanka, PhD Solid State Electronics, Durham University) has been involved with the ‘Solar Village’ project since the 1990s. The scheme improves the standard of living for remote villages where there are no modern facilities available. The project aims to use clean energy technologies to enable social development and alleviate poverty.
Solar power is used to provide power and water at minimal cost to the communities. Local institutions are encouraged to support such projects. In Sri Lanka a local university has adopted the village to provide support and raise awareness of the possible development benefits.
At one pilot project in Kaduruwea village in Sri Lanka, staff and students from the University of Sri Jayawardenepura have supported the community. The pilot projects in Sri Lanka have now been mentored over the course of four years.
Plans are underway for the Solar Village scheme to be extended, with discussions about the project being rolled out in Kenya. To build on the pilot projects and interest in Africa and Asia, Dharme has worked with colleagues to set up two conference series, Solar Asia and Solar Africa. Conferences have already taken place in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and in Nigeria.
Dharme’s academic work has seen him pass on his expertise in the field through the supervision of 17 PhD theses to date. He manages a group of 6 PhD students who are currently part of his ‘Solar Energy Group’ at Sheffield Hallam University. One of his students is Olajide Olusola , himself a current Commonwealth Scholar (2012 Commonwealth Scholar from Nigeria, PhD, Environmental Sustainability Systems Sheffield Hallam University).
Olajide participated in a session at the CSC Welcome Day in 2012 where he outlined his aim to use the Solar Village scheme to benefit his home country in the future.
The group works on development of Thin Film Solar Cells using electrodeposited semiconductors to manufacture low-cost solar panels. Whilst the research and development work is continuing in this area, the group is also taking this technology from the laboratory into the wider society with the production of solar panels for the market.
Dharme says that the Solar Village project is a result of his career utilising science for development outcomes. ‘The project was designed with great thought in order to find solutions around the world. It satisfies 4 MDGs, and I dream of seeing a global ‘Solar Village’ programme very soon.’