Solarizing Community in Cambodia

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Volunteers constructing the base for solar panels
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Cambodia Solar Project


Community Partners

  • Wat Opot Children Community
  • Sakka Foundation

Some Numbers

  • HK$73,465.2 raised by HKUST students
  • Over US$22,500 raised in total
  • 25 students visited Cambodia to help
  • 7 faculty have visited Wat Opot
  • 617 days from first email to completion
  • Over 330 emails sent
  • 60 solar panels installed generating around 22,000 KWh/year

One of the reasons why I joined this trip was that I wanted to combine my knowledge in mechanical engineering with my passion for sustainable energy to work on a solar energy project that would help people.

SENG, Year 3

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This area of Cambodia has only had electricity for about 7 years. When HKUST Connect first visited Wat Opot Children’s Community in 2011 the challenges posed by the local electricity supply were immediately obvious. However, it wasn’t until a chance encounter with 3ree Environment Pte Ltd that the possibilities for a Cambodia Solar Project began to take shape.


The first email on the subject to Wat Opot was on 22 December 2015. In January 2016, Alice joined one of our regular service trips for a feasibility study. Then, in June 2016, a team of 9 students engaged in fundraising before travelling to Cambodia for a pre-installation research trip, which then inspired a further wave of fundraising across campus.

3ree Environment’s support was invaluable. From providing the solar panels at cost, technical advice throughout, and free engineering support during both installation trips and for future maintenance (if needed), we cannot thank them enough!

Meanwhile, we were also assisted from the start by the Sakka Foundation who facilitated fundraising and mediation. With the sums of money involved, their experience in similar projects was invaluable.

Solar panels installed

Our Objectives

  1. To provide cheap, reliable, sustainable electricity to the Wat Opot Children’s Community in Cambodia.
  2. To provide a meaningful opportunity for HKUST students to serve and learn.

From early on we had good faculty support. This was essential if we were to fulfill our second objective of making the trips as educational as possible for our students. They didn’t only learn about solar electricity. Thanks to faculty support students also learnt about Cambodian culture and sustainability.

Wat Opot Children’s Community is specifically focused on children who have been orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS and so another outcome of the trip was an increased understanding of this disease and how it affects children.

Through their experiences, facilitated by nightly debriefs students also learned about team work and stakeholders. The challenges encountered across multiple trips taught them skills like planning, time management, and the importance of resilience and adaptability.

The importance of communication was reinforced with English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Khmer all having to be utilized.

We have only had electricity in this area of Cambodia for about 7 years, and as the electric grew so did our ability to purchase luxuries, such as clothes washing machines, refrigerators, fans in all the rooms and an AC unit for the office. Now that the Cambodian sun is coming out in full force (as one volunteer stated, "at least that hot sun will now be good for something"), we'll are able to see stronger monthly electric savings.

Melinda LIES
Programme Coordinator – Finance
Wat Opot Children Community


The First Installation Trip was particularly challenging. Despite the best efforts of all concerned, the shipment of solar panels were delayed. However, there was still plenty to do:
Step 1 – Choose a location
Step 2 – Prepare the ground
Step 3 – Pour the cement
Step 4 – Make the bases

The work was harder than expected but the 13 students who joined us rose to the challenge. By the end of the trip we had done enough that the locals could finish off preparations ready for the delivery of the solar panels.

This trip was also attended by a number of supportive faculty and a highlight for many students was a late night impromptu lecture on cement by Prof Ben Chan, sketching on a mirror in a crowded hotel bedroom – experiential learning at its finest!

The Second Installation Trip was, by contrast, smoothness personified. Only 4 students and 2 Chinese engineers were present but with local children helping the panels were fitted and everything was soon working as planned.

This trip was one of the most satisfying and fulfilling trip I ever had......In the face of the recent climate changes and global quest for a sustainable future, I felt that the change has to start from me.

Turzo BOSE
SENG, Year 3

We would like to express a special thank you to all our stakeholders for their hard work and cooperation in making this a successful service learning project:

  • The staff and children of Wat Opot Children's Community
  • Alice Tai and 3ree Environment Pte Ltd
  • The Sakka Foundation
  • The students of HKUST – participants and fundraisers
  • Professors Chris Chao, Edwin Tso, Ben Chan, Fan Zhiyong, Davis Bookhart, Shang Chii, and Siu Woo
Step 1 – Choose a location
Step 1 – Choose a location
Step 2 – Prepare the ground
Step 2 – Prepare the ground
Step 3 – Pour the cement
Step 3 – Pour the cement
Step 4 – Prepare the bases
Step 4 – Prepare the bases
Step 5 – Connect the panels
Step 5 – Connect the panels
From L to R: Prof Chris Chao, Prof Edwin Tso, Ms Helen Wong, Prof Ben Chan, Prof Fan Zhiyong, and Prof Davis Bookhart
From L to R: Prof Chris Chao, Prof Edwin Tso, Ms Helen Wong, Prof Ben Chan, Prof Fan Zhiyong, and Prof Davis Bookhart