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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea is increasingly lighting Pyongyang with solar-powered street and garden lights, government mouthpiece Arirang-Meari reported on Tuesday.
The North Korean Geumhwa Trading Company has produced various types of street and garden lamps powered by solar energy, according to the report.
“The shape and height of the street and garden lamps with solar panels can be changed in various ways in accordance with the installation environment, conditions, and requests from units which [use them],” Arirang-Meari said.
“The street and garden lamps with solar panels are automatically adjusted according to the brightness of day and night, and have a high-level protection function against overcharge and over-discharge.”
The power output of the solar panel used for the 6m street lamp is 120 Watts, and the storage battery capacity is 80 Ah (Amp-hour). The height of a garden lamp is 2.5m and it features a 40W solar panel with a 20 Ah battery pack.
The state-run outlet DPRK Today reported on February 10 that the North recently developed and produced “a lot of various solar panels with distinct features” which can be installed on streets and in parks.
The panels are able to provide power for around 10 hours, and the solar panel system can power the lamps even if there are two consecutive cloudy days. The DPRK Today also claimed that the life span of the lamps is more than 25 years, and that the storage battery can be used for more than four years.
“The street and garden lamps, which are priced at about half of the imported [equivalent], have received a favorable review from buyers due to unique shapes and a variety of color and brightness.”
The lights are being used by a number of organizations in Pyongyang, including the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and the Taedonggang Beer Brewery, but also in other provinces, according to the DPRK Today‘s report in March.
Jung Young-seok, a researcher at the Photovoltaic Laboratory of New and Renewable Energy Research Division at the government-run Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), said the North Korean government may be trying to overcome the capital’s notorious power shortages through the use of solar-powered street and garden lamps.
“It’s not nonsense,” Jung told NK News. “But the 120W solar electric power panel is bigger than it may appear, so it’s not easy to install due to the wind effects.”
“Since the electrical power situation is not good and the electric utility infrastructure isn’t well established, it may be reasonable to set up stand-alone street lights which can be operated without connecting to the electronic grid.”
Lee Seok-ki, a senior researcher at the government-run Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET), said the installment of solar-powered outdoor lamps had its “advantages” in the context of North Korea’s power problems.
“In particular, it is possible for the North to produce and utilize the necessary electricity by themselves without being supplied through a large power plant in situations where power production is insufficient,” Lee told NK News.
Jung said it “doesn’t make sense” that solar-powered lamps were placed throughout the whole of the DPRK, as they are more expensive than regular street lamps.
But Lee said the solar-powered lamps “wouldn’t be widely distributed” due to “economic feasibility”.
Edited by Oliver Hotham