Rare video footage has emerged from North Korea that reveals the growing dependence of its citizens on solar energy to power their homes amid frequent electricity blackouts.
At just over a minute long, the video, filmed in March by the Unification Media Group, and published on the Daily NK website, takes the viewer past cyclists on the quiet, residential streets of Chongjin, North Korea’s third largest city in northern Hamgyong Province.
The short film shows several low-level houses displaying solar panels at the top of long poles on the roof. Subtitles explain that the height of the pole is used to deter theft of the prized equipment.
Sources in Hamgyong told the Daily NK that a 10 watt panel would cost about $11.50, rising up to a 100 watt installation at $116. The equipment is sourced from China.
The most popular choice for families is a 30 watt unit at $35, which would be the equivalent of 50-60 kg of rice, making it an expensive option for most.
Despite the prohibitive costs, ownership is reportedly on the rise.
“Until just a few years ago, you really only saw solar panels installed in the private homes of high ranking officials and on the buildings of major factories and trading companies,” said one source.
“But these days, solar panels are widely purchased. In some areas, as many as 30-40% of homes have them installed…for those who can afford them, having panels allows people to have lights on in the home at night.”
Electricity supplies have long been used as an indicator of how the North Korean economy is performing.
According to satellite pictures released at the weekend, the country’s nighttime lighting conditions have improved over the past decade, showing levels previously seen in 1992 before the deep economic slump of the late nineties.
It is not known how much of this light was generated by self-sufficient citizens or by the government power supply.
Source – Telegraph.co.uk