The Wildlife Conservation Network is bringing sophisticated solar-power systems to scientists who study and protect endangered species in some of the most remote areas on earth — thanks to the efforts of a dedicated volunteer.
Six years ago, Stephen Gold attended the Los Altos, Calif., organization's annual gathering, where he heard Rebecca Klein, co-founder of Cheetah Conservation Botswana, discuss her project's urgent need for more energy. Mr. Gold — a longtime solar advocate who designed his own solar-powered home in San Francisco — offered to help.
Since then, he has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Network to set up 11 solar-power systems at remote conservation stations, with four more scheduled for installation in the next few months.
Mr. Gold, who works as a general and plumbing contractor in San Francisco, has solicited donations of solar panels, converters, batteries, and other equipment.
"It isn't just the panels," he says. "You've got to change the electricity into something that's usable."
Mr. Gold puts the total value of the 15 systems at more than $800,000. He estimates that roughly 80 percent of the equipment and the cost of shipping has been donated.
Despite their isolated locations, the scientists are conducting some technologically savvy research.
Save the Elephants, in Kenya, for example, has put GPS collars on more than 80 elephants, and uses satellites and mobile phones to track them in real time. The collected information helps researchers learn more about the elephants' behavior and migration routes, which wildlife officials can then use to plan wildlife corridors and try to minimize conflict between the animals and nearby villages.
For more information: Go to http://www.wcnsolarproject.org.