Solar Panels Shine New Light on NK

Solar panels
are providing solutions for North Koreans who constantly struggle with an
unreliable source of state electricity, enabling them to generate their own
power, the Daily NK has learned. Solar panels have become among the assets
considered essential for life in North Korea by allowing households to connect
them to rechargeable batteries which can power lights and household appliances,
according to a local source.

Now,
it doesn
t matter whether we get power from the state.
With these solar panels, we can use electricity,
The South Pyongan Province-based source reported to the Daily NK on Thursday, To try to solve the power shortage issues, people have been saving up to
somehow buy these solar panels.

Just
a few years ago, only Party cadres were able to use the panels, but now, the
prices have gone down significantly, allowing roughly 40 percent of people to
use them,
she explained.

Solar panels
sold in North Korean marketplaces are produced in the Chinese cities of Beijing
and Shanghai. A 10W panel goes for 80 RMB; a 30W sells for 240 RMB; a 50W version for
400 RMB; and a 100W model fetches 800 RMB.

According to
the source, factors such as class and sector greatly influence solar panel
usage among North Korea’s residents. The 100W panel powers mills and individual businesses; the 50W is mainly
for donju [the new affluent middle class], and the 30W serves average
residents.

With the
panels, people are even able to charge their wet cell [135A] and dry cell [28A,
55A] car batteries, as well as motorbike batteries [12A]. Car and motorbike
batteries have long been essential items utilized by residents to charge items within their homes. The dry cell batteries have been introduced
more recently, and as the name implies, do not require liquid solutions. 

The 100W solar panel that is sold in
Sinuiju and Pyongsong markets connects to 135A car batteries. A 50W solar panel
needs to be paired up with a 55A battery, and a 30W with a 28A one in
order to charge power. Depending on the output of electricity, the suitable
battery type needs to be adequately matched up with the proper panel.

The 28A battery at Sinuiju and Pyongsong
markets is sold for roughly 30 USD. 
The 30W solar
panel and 28A battery set makes up for 70 percent of the sales and are used by
the average person,
 the source explained.
[Exchange rate: 1 USD = 8,200 KPW, as of October 15th at Sinuiju Market]

When it comes to devices that run on solar
power, the source said, 
Depending on the size of
the display, there are 9-inch, 16-inch ‘notetel’ [a type of portable media player from China],
and the 40-inch TV set 
Chollyong which is a North Korean rip-off of a Chinese model. She explained that the 9-inch models are for the average household,
while the 16-inch and 
Chollyong’ versions are for Party cadres and the donju.

Traders and some donju, unlike the average
household, use 700W solar panels and large TV screens, and they usually run two
to three panels to power air conditioners and refrigerators as well.”

To buy a 30W solar panel, a compatible
battery, and a flat screen TV, it costs at least 700 RMB [roughly 900,000 KPW].
Considering that the average daily income of a vendor at the market is roughly
5,000 -20,000 KPW, the cost is substantial. 
People
save up money for roughly a year, and purchase the solar panel set as their
most treasured asset,
 the source explained. In the end, people are buying their electricity at the markets as
well.

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