Founding Story

A Witness To Energy Poverty

Solar Village Project’s Founder, Joe Kselman, had always wanted to visit India. Growing up, Joe heard countless stories of his grandfather Max’s life there during World War II. Max was fortunate to find refuge in India after his homeland of Austria was annexed by the Nazis in 1939. Max’s nostalgia for his adventures and deep gratitude towards the country would lead Joe to take his first trip there decades later in 2012.

After asking his tour guide to show him a side of India away from tourism, Joe discovered the remote village of Gauterine. He was dismayed to learn that the friendly people of Gauterine lived on less than one dollar a day and had zero access to electricity.

While Joe marveled at the villagers’ resilience, he could not simply walk away after witnessing such stark inequality. Joe did not have the resources to fix the problem, but he did have drive, heart, and just enough familiarity with sustainable energy to make a plan. He knew that solar technology was relatively affordable from his project management work in electrical engineering. Since he didn’t have the funds to build a mini-grid for the entire village, Joe strategically decided to focus on powering Gauterine’s main communal gathering space: the village school.

Joe came back to the US with a mission. Despite his lack of resources, he was determined to give back to the country that had shielded his family during WWII. Joe returned to Gauterine in 2013 and successfully installed a solar energy system to power the school. But as he spent more time with the community and learned about more about their struggles, he saw more possibilities. This led Joe to start an Indiegogo Crowdfunding campaign in 2014 to raise money to sustainably power the entire village of Gauterine. Later that year, Joe and his wife, Cristeen, would successfully distribute 100 solar home lighting systems to power every single home in Gauterine.

Solar Village Project became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit on June 26, 2014. Since that first success in Gauterine, SVP has brought solar powered lights to over 6,000 homes, over 20 villages, and 6 schools in energy impoverished areas. Today, SVP continues to work on multiple initiatives with communities across India, Puerto Rico, and other areas in need in order to make sustainable energy accessible to all.