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22 July 2016

Solar Frontier provides solar panels to help keep Bolivia's Uyuni salt flats clean

Tokyo-based Solar Frontier – the largest manufacturer of CIS (copper indium selenium) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar modules – has provided solar panels to Projecto YOSI, an organization working to keep Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni clean and promote sustainable tourism in the region.

Projecto YOSI will use the solar energy system (which consists of 40 solar panels) to power a device that changes plastic waste into petroleum, helping to address the growing problem of litter in the area. It is doing so with the help of the local community.

Representing the world's largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni is also among the flattest places in the world, with ground level differences no bigger than 50cm. So, when a thin film of water collects on top of the vast salt deposits during the rainy season, the flooded plains turn into what's described as a 'Sky Mirror', as the undisturbed surface of water reflects back the sun, sky and clouds.

The Uyuni Salt Flats are a popular sightseeing spot, attracting around 1.2 million visitors to Bolivia annually. But with few facilities to deal with waste, the salt flats are also accumulating litter, impacting the living standards of local communities, the quality of the salt collected from the salt flat, and the view of the landscape. To address this, a Japanese tour guide launched Projecto YOSI and, over time, gained the support of the local government and academic institutions.

Yoshihito Honma, representing the organization, has spent the last seven years leading tours across South America. He decided to raise awareness about this issue after witnessing the growing amount of litter lying across the region. As a first demonstrative step, he has introduced a small, solar-powered device that can break down plastic waste into petroleum. Some local people now even bring in plastic waste from their homes. Projecto YOSI has since gained wider recognition in Bolivia, including from the Ministry of Environment, municipal governments, universities and other organizations. In January, it featured in the Bolivian Ministry of Environment's booth at the Rallye Dakar.

Honma now also serves as a visiting lecturer on environmental issues at the University of San Andrés (IIAT: Applied Technology Investigation Institute) and as a supervisor for a joint project with the Ministry of Environment. Aiming to boost environmental awareness, he is undertaking activities in the hope of establishing Bolivia's first recycling facilities.

"I dream that the Uyuni Salt Flats will one day be recognized as a model for sustainable tourism and environmental protection… The first step is to set up activities that will protect the environment. To that end, it's important that we can establish a recycling system that is locally led," says Honma. "The solar panels that we have chosen are among the most environmentally friendly and, even in harsh environmental conditions, have demonstrated stable power generation," he adds.

"This kind of opportunity helps customers think about what solar energy can really achieve," says Yoshihiro Ishikawa, manager of Solar Frontier's Global Business Planning Division. "We're very grateful if projects such as these - using a device powered by clean, solar energy to turn waste into petroleum – will help raise public awareness."

Tags: Solar Frontier CIS thin-film PV modules

Visit: www.yosip.org

Visit: www.solar-frontier.com

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