Okra Solar is Bringing Clean Renewable Energy to Remote Corners of Asia

By Rakini Bergundy, November 25, 2020

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Did you know that close to one billion people still have no access to electricity? Okra Solar is looking to solve that problem by bringing energy to remote communities with their smart solar microgrids and accompanying software. The four-year-old Aussie startup is still in its early growth stages but Callum Yap, Head of Manufacturing at Okra, remarks that “Shenzhen has played a critical role” in product development. 

As Yap tells That’s, individuals are usually initially brought on as engineers or client-facing roles during a startup’s fledgling stages, but no one usually specializes in manufacturing. However, Yap was part of the Okra team that first arrived in Shenzhen, and explains “we had no idea how to do manufacturing [effectively], but there was an abundance of people willing to help and point us in the right direction.” He adds that there may be other factories in other cities in China, but finding people that were willing to help was a harder task. “I’m grateful for the community in Shenzhen, Trouble Maker was one of the first people we spoke to, and they helped us navigate and learn Shenzhen.”

Image courtesy of Okra Solar

Okra’s focus is on Southeast Asia, in particular Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, in addition to Africa. In comparison, 100% of China’s population has had access to electricity since 2013, according to the World Bank. 

To date, Okra has brought electricity to 1,750 people across three countries with their solutions. One of Yap’s most memorable moments was traveling to Sumba, an island in Indonesia to launch a pilot project for a client. Along with his team, he travelled via motorbike for four hours to a remote village which he describes as a crazy off-the-beaten-track adventure. After deploying the solar panels, batteries and Okra products, “seeing the lights and TV turn on was truly memorable”. 

Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-9.14.55-am.jpgImage courtesy of Okra Solar

sumba.jpegMandas village on Sumba island went from zero internet connectivity and zero electricity, to watching YouTube on a HD TV, in a single day. Image courtesy of Okra Solar

Although 2020 has been a tough year with the COVID-19 pandemic, Okra still has its sights set on launching a pilot project in Africa soon, and will continue to scale up existing projects in Southeast Asia.

So how can people help? Okra is always looking for talented engineers or those interested in bridging the energy poverty gap. In addition, bringing awareness to energy access is important, as more companies in the space means the existence of healthy competition and increased innovation geared towards solving the problem.  

[Cover image via @migueljeronimophotography/Okra Solar]

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