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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

South Korean Solar System Community on Jeju Island a Brilliant Idea


Solar System Powers Donggwang Green Village on Semi-Tropical Jeju Island

Donggwang is on the western half of Jeju-do, the largest of South Korea’s semi-tropical southern islands. Near the village, Halla Mountain, a volcano and the tallest mountain in South Korea, rises from the island’s center amidst a patchwork of small farms.

Donggwang has achieved what even the most powerful countries in the world are still struggling to accomplish: total energy independence with clean technology.

On the roof of each of the 40 houses in Donggwang lies a large beds of solar panels. Even the small, local elementary school runs on free electric energy from the sun. The photovoltaic panels produce enough energy to power the entire area. Amidst cattle and fields, Donggwang is a state-of-the-art renewable energy village.

Donggwang Green Village on Jeju-do South KoreaI spoke with Choo Chan Lee, who lives in Donggwang. Mr. Lee, a Seoul native, retired to Donggwang green village after operating a successful grocery store in New York for many years. He and his wife invited my in for tea to talk about the solar system and their life in Donggwang.

“Dongwang is a solar town,” Mr. Lee says. “[The solar systems] are a lot of help for us. Mine is 2.1 kW.”

In 2004, the government helped to install solar systems in Donggwang, paying 70% of the installation fees.

“They told us this is your town,” recalls Mr. Lee. “Do you wand them or not? We said that we would like them.”

When asked whether he is concerned about environmental issues, Mr. Lee replies casually, “Yeah, the environment is a very important issue. In Jeju we don’t have many factories, so the air is very nice. Very nice environment. The motto is a clean city - clean island. They’re trying to do this solar and then the windmills. My favorite part of living in Jeju is the fresh air. The clean air.”

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