First Project in Thailand Completed!

After 15 months of planning and implementation, Panels For Progress has officially completed its first solar installation on the Children’s Home project in Chiang Rai, Thailand.  This 20kW rooftop system was made possible by our partners- First Solar, Not For Sale Organization, and Toledo Community Foundation- as well as the support and dedication of individual donors and volunteers.

Solar Panels


Constructed of thin film panels and spanning the roofs of 3 separate buildings, the system will provide clean, affordable energy for the project’s 180 children and 4 full time staff, as well as feed any excess energy back to the grid for use by the surrounding communities. In its entirety, the monetary value of the system and its component parts is an estimated $90,000 and the value of the electricity costs saved by our nonprofit partner, Volunteers for Children’s Development, is roughly 300,000 thai baht (or $9,500 USD) year after year, for a projected span of 20 years.  Based on EPA Emissions data, and with a system of this size, we estimate that  over 25,000 KwH in energy will be saved  and 17.2 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be reduced.  More importantly, the residents of this project, mostly children who have been human trafficked or at risk for this type of abuse, will now have a reliable source of electricity for their on-site water pumps, air conditioning, refrigeration, and soon to be unveiled computer technology center which will provide them with internet access for the first time.  Additionally, we are repurposing a handful of extra panels to be used as mobile charging stations which, when connected to a simple car battery, can produce electricity that can then be sold at an hourly rate to surrounding villagers, thereby becoming an additional revenue stream.

The installation was a complete success as was our on-site training for the children and staff which covered the various forms of renewable energy, the solar industry in Thailand, the basics of how their photovoltaic rooftop system functions, and the benefits of these resources.  For the older children, the most impactful takeaway was that Thailand is undergoing a rapid expansion of solar electrification projects due in large part to strong government support, and as a result, the demand for solar technicians has skyrocketed making it an attractive technical job opportunity.

This first project was a successful proof of concept and a great launchpad to establish longterm partnership potential with various solar equipment manufactures and installation companies eager to donate their resources and services to good causes.  For a more detailed impact report on this project, check out our Featured Projects section and stay tuned for updates on our next project, pending Fall, 2013.


VP Solar- EPC Partners

VP Solar- our EPC Partners- Responsible for installing the system

Pre-Installation work

Finished product

Training the kids and project coordinators about benefits of solar

“Solar cell!”

Printing photos of the kids they can use to decorate their dorm rooms. Enthralled by the printer.

Picking up the children from school- a short 5 min drive from the orphanage.

Repurposing the few excess panels as mobile charging stations

Project Site in Chiang Rai

Visiting the Golden Triangle with the Project coordinators. At the border of Thailand-Burma where most of the children are rescued and brought to the Children’s Home.



PFP Partners with Leading Global Solar Company First Solar

Panels For Progress (PFP) received exciting news on July 23rd.   First Solar, a leading manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and provider of comprehensive system solutions, confirmed its commitment to provide all necessary solar panels in support of our project with Not For Sale Thailand,  a Children’s Home for stateless children rescued from exploitation in the Chiang Rai province of Northern Thailand.

Panels for Progress will use First Solar’s PV panels to make the Children’s Home more economically and environmentally sustainable, as well as reduce their disproportionately high electricity costs, thereby enabling them to direct their limited resources to building more robust rehabilitation and education services for the children. In addition, the project will pave the way for implementing more renewable energy projects in the surrounding area through education and increased awareness, as well as promote sustainable, clean energy throughout the community.

The First Solar Corporate Charitable Fund, in partnership with the non-profit Toledo Community Foundation, provides support to programs that seek to improve the quality of life in communities around the world.  The Fund places special emphasis on programs that further First Solar’s Corporate giving values which include: 1) focusing on “green” education initiatives, 2) ensuring access to clean energy and water in underserved areas; and 3) furthering the development of innovative and sustainable technologies.

A bit about our solar panel partner:  First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive PV solar systems which use advanced thin-film panels. The company’s integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today.  From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module collection and recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems protect and enhance the environment. They are on the leading edge of solar technology and we’re thrilled to have their support.

A bit about our NGO partner:  The Children’s Home, operated by anti-human trafficking nonprofit Not For Sale, provides short and long term care to 150 stateless children in Northern Thailand who are recognized by neither the Thai nor Myanmar government, thus making them vulnerable to exploitation. With the assistance of Thai abolitionist Kru Nam and on-site coordinator, J K Klaiber, the Children’s Home provides children with a safe environment, food, healthcare, education, and life skills.

First Solar’s generous contribution, will prove invaluable to the success of PFP’s first project.  In addition to the solar panels, PFP is tasked with procuring all Balance of System (BoS) equipment including racking, batteries, monitoring software, and inverters to ensure the project is functioning at maximum efficiency.

Having our proposal to First Solar’s Module Donation Program approved is a HUGE milestone in PFP’s pilot project in Thailand, and a great first step toward potential future projects with one of the world’s leading solar companies. Exciting times ahead—stay posted for updates on a projected completion date, how you can get involved, and details on our first Fundraiser in the Bay Area!









Thailand: Ripe for Solar

In South-East Asian countries, rapid economic growth coupled with concerns over energy security has meant a soaring demand for renewable energy sources. According to a recent report by Emergent Ventures, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam comprise about 95% of the energy consumption in the region.  A few pilot projects have already been successfully implemented and the region is becoming increasingly attractive to solar panel manufacturers.  “Thailand expects renewable energy to contribute 25% of total country’s energy mix by 2022. Of this 25%, solar was initially targeted to contribute 500 MW but this target is now proposed to go up to 2000 MW by 2022.”  A number of policies have been rolled out to support these projects, with Thailand paving the way by implementing an adder policy which pays an additional 6.5 THB (0.20 US$)/kWh over and above the normal electricity tariff for solar power projects.

Thailand: Ripe for SolarThese incentives and non-financial support mechanisms need not apply solely to businesses. Panels For Progress aims to exhibit how solar power investments can be successfully applied to the nonprofit realm as well.   As the price for solar wafers and modules rapidly declines, solar panel manufacturers are realizing that donating their excess resources, specifically to a worthy cause such as PFP’s project in Chiang Mai, is becoming an increasingly attractive opportunity, and one with a multitude of positive externalities- not least of which is having a tremendous impact on communities in need of these resources.

The harsh reality is that conventional grid power and unsustainable fossil fuels are neither scalable nor affordable energy solutions for the world’s poor.  But progress in technology, finance and business is overcoming traditional barriers to delivering renewable energy to the poor.  Cheaper, more sophisticated technologies provide us with the ability (and some would claim the moral obligation), to provide energy to the 1.6 billion people- a quarter of humanity- who currently live without access to electricity.

As an update on our project in partnership with Not For Sale in Chiang Mai, Thailand:  We are currently in conversation with a solar panel manufacturer that has an interest in partnering with PFP on the project and we are submitting a proposal to their charitable arm. Keep your fingers crossed!  This would be a very exciting, and huge development for us.

Thailand: Ripe for Solar


2012: International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Last week, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative at the Dubai World Future Energy Summit.  In an International Herald Tribune op-ed this week, Ban Ki Moon explains the reasoning behind the UN spearheading this revolutionary new project:

“As I see it, we face two urgent energy challenges.  The first is that one in five people on the planet lacks access to electricity. Twice as many, almost 3 billion, use wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook meals and heat homes, exposing themselves and their families to harmful smoke and fumes. This energy poverty is devastating to human development.

The second challenge is climate change. Greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels contribute directly to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere, with all the attendant consequences: a rising incidence of extreme weather and natural disasters that jeopardize lives, livelihoods and our children’s future.

Sustainable energy for all by 2030 is an enormous challenge. But it is achievable. My vision is for a world with universal energy access coupled with significantly improved rates of energy efficiency and a doubling of renewable energy in our mix of fuel sources. The obstacles are not so much technical as human. We need to raise sustainable energy to the top of the global agenda and focus our attention, ingenuity, resources, and investments to make it a reality.

Consider the precedent of cellular phones. Twenty years ago, universal access to mobile communications seemed preposterous. Yet as governments put proper frameworks in place and the private sector invested resources and pioneered business models, the communications revolution exploded.

A similar paradigm can emerge in sustainable energy. Developing countries can leapfrog conventional options in favor of cleaner energy solutions, just as they leapfrogged land-line based phone technologies in favor of mobile networks. Industrialized countries can and should support this transition to low-emission technologies, not least through their own example.”

At Panels For Progress, our mission is to help realize the goals set forth by the United Nation’s Development Programme by introducing solar energy to communities that lack access to affordable, reliable electricity.

The benefits of achieving universal access to modern energy services are transformational: lighting for schools, functioning health clinics, pumps for water and sanitation, cleaner indoor air, faster food-processing and more income-generating opportunities.  We’re proud to be part of this movement and look forward to contributing to the United Nation’s holistic vision of a sustainable future for all.

Solarize Your Mission!

Not For Sale CampaignToday marks the official launch of Panels For Progress!  Rest assured plenty of work has gone into getting to this point, but thanks to the commitment of our first NGO partner, the Not For Sale Campaign, our dedicated PFP team, and our awesome web developers, Jackstin, we are quickly gaining traction in the development of our first solar installation.

Check out our Projects page to learn more about our pilot project: installing solar on Not For Sale’s safe house and vocational training center for orphaned children in Northern Thailand who are at-risk for human trafficking.  For more information on what we do and how we do it, visit our Approach page.

To stay up to date on our progress, next steps, how you can get involved, or just to help spread the word about this initiative, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  If you are a nonprofit organization and are interested in equipping your international projects with clean, reliable electricity, please send your information to

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be meeting with solar equipment manufacturers that have dedicated philanthropic arms, or mandates to donate equipment to projects in areas of strategic interest, to present this amazing partnership opportunity to them.

We expect to have our 501(c)3 status confirmed in the next month or so, but all donations (monetary or in-kind) made in the interim will be retroactively tax deductible.  More to come…