You may have already seen the adventures of Marty the Zebra, Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe in the Madagascar movies. A series of events led these animals from New York to Madagascar. Of course, they thought they were in San Diego until they were helpfully reminded of their true location when they saw lemurs, one of Madagascar’s most well known residents!
In April 2011, a SunPower team along with representatives from the Vote Solar Initiative and other groups from the Bay Area’s renewable energy industry had the pleasure of visiting the island located 200 miles off the east coast of Africa for a “greening” initiative led by Dr. Brian Fisher, the Chairman of the California Academy of Sciences’ entomology department.
For almost a decade, Dr. Fisher has been traveling from San Francisco to Madagascar, an island that comprises one of the most diverse, unique, and endangered biological hotspots on the planet. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of the country’s rich natural ecology is already lost to habitat destruction. Dr. Fisher and his team at the Madagascar Biodiversity Center are in a race against time to study and preserve what still remains.
The problem is deforestation. Madagascar’s spiny forest, home to unique species such as: tortoises, mongooses, and the famous lemurs, is being destroyed at an astonishing rate. This is because Madagascar’s local communities rely on the slow-growing forest to supply fuel for cooking as reliable gas and electric infrastructures are virtually non-existent in Madagascar - one of the poorest countries in the world. The villages’ meager daily reliance on the forest as an energy source is the single greatest threat to this fragile ecosystem.
The good news is Dr. Fisher’s efforts have already started to pay off. Our team went to the island on a mission to install solar panels on Madagascar Biodiversity Center, which is located in the capital city of Antananarivo. Dr. Fisher serves as Executive Director of the center. Hand in hand, the team installed a 7.8 kilowatt SunPower system. The system will provide enough reliable electricity to meet 100 percent of the Center’s power needs for education and research. Before solar, the Center would have to stop research work during the frequent and often unexpected power outages. In addition, much of the Center’s sensitive equipment was damaged by the intermittent power and surges. The solar system also is a symbolic step towards a green fossil free fuel future for Madagascar. By virtually eliminating the facility’s dependence on fossil fuel-based generation from the local utilities, the clean energy system advances the Center’s larger environmental mission.
Today the center is abuzz with students conducting uninterrupted research with a strengthened focus on protecting their country’s rich biological heritage. We are honored to be part of such an initiative. Check out our photos of the Madagascar Biodiversity Center.
We encourage you to visit the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to learn more about Dr. Fisher’s work and get a more in depth perspective on the importance of Madagascar and the Rainforests of the World. We hope you will join us in supporting this great organization locally and globally. We’ll keep you updated on our efforts. And please let us know if you have questions or ideas!
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