Growing the Internet

Sustainability in Armenia: ARMIX Adopts Solar Power

Given that within the coming years, another billion people are going come online along with billions more devices thanks to the Internet of things (IoT), we recognize that the community of Internet professionals and organizations cannot legitimately discuss access without addressing sustainability, especially as it relates to energy. Our support for ARMIX, an Internet exchange point (IXP) in Armenia, is testament to this, and reflective of our global development strategy. Around three years ago, ISOC donated 18 solar panels to ARMIX to help cut down on their energy bill and reduce their reliance on nonrenewable power sources. The panels provide around 4 kilowatts of power, and they constitute the first time that ISOC has donated such equipment to an IXP.

We recently spoke with Vahan Hovsepyan, the director of the ARMIX Foundation and a member of the ISOC Armenia Chapter, about what prompted ARMIX to reach out to ISOC with their request and how it has benefited them.

According to Vahan, the idea to reach out to ISOC came about when they decided to integrate renewable energy into their operations to promote green energy solutions as well as reduce their electricity costs and consumption. He added that ARMIX chose solar because they knew about a company installing solar panels in Armenia, and they did not have many other renewable alternatives to consider (such as wind). The Armenian government is also heavily promoting solar. For instance, a bill was being drafted at the time that included stipulations about returning additional capacity gained from renewables, solar in particular, back to the grid – and it become law in 2016. He also stressed that Armenia is in a unique geographic location since the country receives ample sunlight, and the panels largely do not have to be rotated since they are almost always exposed to the sun during the day.

Since the panels have been donated, their electricity costs have dropped by more than 30%. Moreover, Vahan emphasized that their reliance on nonrenewable energy has decreased as a result of the panels. “They have helped immensely, and we really thank ISOC for its support,” Vahan said, adding: “The solar panels are also drastically reducing the amount of electricity we obtain from nonrenewable sources.” And while they are only currently present at one of ARMIX’s three points of presence (PoPs), Vahan said ARMIX wants to expand the use of solar to the rest of their PoPs.

Vahan made one point clear: ARMIX wanted to set a good example of technology companies that help to change their physical environment. It also demonstrates the importance of an enabling policy environment and public-private partnerships to promote a cleaner, more sustainable environment. They are introducing the community to a new issue, in this case, sustainability, which Vahan considers a significant step forward.

When I spoke to Vahan, his colleague Hovhannes Alexanyan – the commercial director of ARPINET, a local Internet service provider (ISP) and member of ARMIX – joined. Hovhannes said the Municipality of Ejmiatsin, the spiritual capital of Armenia, installed LED lighting around the city, and is on track to get its investment back within a year. He stressed this program was implemented partly due to ARPINET’s success with solar power and energy savings, which served as its inspiration.

ARMIX’s success has not gone unnoticed, either. ARMIX is setting a good example for other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries in terms of promoting green energy and green infrastructure, along with the policies, strategy, regulation, and legislation to support it. Vahan said they are planning to host Kyrgyz colleagues that they met at an ISOC-sponsored IXP workshop, which was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in December 2016, to show them how they operate the IXP after they expressed interest.

Such collaboration and the success ARMIX has experienced represent a positive affirmation of why we do the work we do. And, of course, when his Kyrgyz colleagues arrive to visit, the solar panels will have a front-and-center position.

Community Projects

Bringing Nepal Back Online: Solar Trip

The day started nice with sunny weather but now it is clouded and it often rains. That’s not good and can trigger more landslides.

An hour later a friend of mine, Kumar, arrives in a tiny car. I am a bit surprised we take that car as the road promises to be very bad at places where landslides were cleared. The equipment is loaded on the back seat of the car and I manage to fit just besides it.
Babu Ram Aryal (right), President of the of the Internet Society Nepal and ICT lawyer, inspects a solar panel in a warehouse in Kathmandu.

We leave Kathmandu direction Sindhupalchok, a district that was severely affected, and again got extra damaged in the May 12 quake.

It is after 2 hours into the journey that we see more and more collapsed houses, but nothing like the scale of destruction I expected. Sitting in this tiny car is not fun on a road like this.

On the way to Bhotsipa, a tiny village where volunteers of the Internet Society plan to deliver a solar panel, they drive through Sipaghat where almost all houses have been destroyed when the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal. 

Sometime later, when we reach the Indrawati River, I see more collapsed houses and at some places the road has been cleared of small landslides. Suddenly we drive into Sipaghat Bazar where almost all houses, many made of regular bricks and concrete are leveled, and what remains is clearly too dangerous to live in. Maybe 15% is habitable. Sipaghat is the first village we see that really looks destroyed by the earthquake.

We drive through the main road that has just a single lane cleared from debris and cross the bridge over the Indrawati River. There, at the other side of the bridge, we become stuck.

It’s surprising that we even got this far with this car.

Somnath Bhattarai and his family install a solar panel and battery on the roof of their temporary shelter in Bhotsipa village. The panel and battery were donated by the Internet Society.

We drive back through the destruction of Sipaghat Bazar and the body of the car makes cracking sounds as it drives through potholes and grinds over bricks, concrete and metal still littering the cleared road.

We continue to village two, higher up North. The road serpentines following steep slopes of the Indrawati River gorge. We see the remains of larger more dangerous landslides.

The day started nice with sunny weather but now it is clouded and it often rains. That is not good and can trigger more landslides.

We move a bit further up the road to a place where there is no danger for landslides and wait for a local politician to help us find the next village where we must install the panel. It hasn’t stopped raining.

We’ll be donating the panel to a village 30 minutes walking up the steep mountain slope. There is no electricity and so far no attempts have been there to reconnect that place.

Kumar tries to drive his car up a dirt road that leads to the village but the tires just can’t get any grip and we leave the car. People of the village take over and carry the solar panel and the very heavy battery. The rain has stopped.

Local men of Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal, carry up a solar panel and battery donated by volunteers of the Internet Society Nepal.

About 30 minutes later we reach the spot where the villagers want the panel to be installed. It is a big house and I think it is the house of the village leader, but it is also heavily cracked. The village is more a loose cluster of houses dotted on a gentle slope with rice fields. Most houses are standing, but at closer inspection are seriously damaged.

A partially destroyed house in Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal.

Kumar and I install the panel, and it all works.

Locals of Talramarang, a tiny village that has been cut off from the power grid since the April 25 earthquake struck Nepal, install a solar panel and battery donated by volunteers of the Internet Society Nepal.

We return to Kathmandu and start to plan our next journey.

* If you would like to help the Chapter bring Nepal back online you can donate on our website.

Photos: © Tom Van Cakenberghe