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When civil war began in Yemen in 2015, so did the growth of solar power.
The crisis took out the already unreliable electric grid and made fuel for generators both scarce and expensive. Solar panels, though also expensive, became a better deal. As people started to turn to solar power, one Yemeni man decided to build an app to help people learn how to install them–which helped solar grow even faster.
“Due to the war and the crisis that is going on in Yemen, the power grid that was supplied by the government is totally disconnected, hence, solar power systems became the main power supply for most homes and businesses,” says Anwar Al-Haddad, who built the app, called PV Solar. Al-Haddad estimates that in 2016, solar grew from roughly 5% of the electricity supply in cities like the capital of Sanaa to more than 50%.
Al-Haddad, a trained engineer who had personal experience with solar power, kept getting questions from friends and family members about how to install and use a solar power system. “I tried to find a mobile application that they can refer to,” he says. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any app to do that. Moreover, I didn’t find any Arabic application for solar power systems.”
He didn’t know how to build an app (“I do not like coding, no matter how hard I try to learn it,” he says), but discovered Thunkable, a drag-and-drop platform that anyone can use to make an app without experience. The resulting app helps people calculate the size of the solar panel system they need. If someone places their phone on the panel, the app can use the phone’s gyroscope to calculate the tilt of the panel and help the user adjust it to get the maximum sunlight.
The app has been downloaded more than 60,000 times in Yemen and is in use in thousands of homes and businesses. For Yemen, the most immediate impact of new solar power is more reliable access to electricity