Solar power generates hope
The request had originally come from Operation Dawn, a non-governmental organisation which runs a drug rehabilitation centre on the island for about 60 men. The aim was to reduce dependence on the three small diesel generators, which were then the island's only source of electricity, and to eliminate the need to bring in fuel by sea.
Given the location and technical considerations, CLP realised that a renewable option was best. In late 2008, the company finalised plans to install 100 solar panels and connect them to supply "green" power for the facility's kitchen, amenity centre and accommodation blocks. Through the project, CLP was able to test the technology and assess its suitability for use on a wider scale.
Members of CLP's volunteer team were quick to realise the job presented another opportunity to break new ground. It gave them the chance to pass on practical skills to recovering addicts interested in learning about electrical systems, rewiring, safety and maintenance.
"When the first stage of the work began last summer, I arranged for engineers from our team to go there on a voluntary basis at weekends," says Ma Chun-fai, construction manager for CLP's east and west regions, who oversees corporate volunteer activities within his area.
The intention was to teach basic theory and key technical skills, while also providing hands-on training. This allowed residents to learn from observing installation and inspection work, and later complete routine jobs around the centre by themselves during the week.
"They would handle basic rewiring and installation for areas not yet connected to the live supply," Ma says. "For us, the good thing is that we have been able to teach skills which they can use when they return to the community."
The initiative has been a success for all concerned - the 20-plus participants and supervisors at the centre, and about 120 CLP staff from different departments who gave their time and expertise.
Since the company is not a certified course provider, no formalised instruction is involved. Nevertheless, Ma has reason to hope that some of the project's participants may go on to take recognised qualifications and find work as technicians or electrical engineers. "I think CLP would always be ready to consider them," he says.
A second stage of the Town Island project, which will involve the addition of another 800 solar panels and two wind turbines, is slated to start later this year. If it gets the green light, the volunteer work could then also move into a second phase.
"I was very happy with how things went before and was excited by the feedback," Ma says. "It was a good experience for me and I know the other volunteers felt the same."
- Stage one of the project was commissioned and completed in January this year
- All wiring and installation is now compliant with government regulations
- A helicopter was used to transport certain supplies, such as wooden poles, to the island