Tribute to a Solar Hero

Here is an email blast from one of my favorite organizations, Solar Energy International. They wrote a great eulogy to Walt Ratterman, a real pioneer in humanitarian renewable energy. I never knew him and I wish I had. He is a great example of what it means to be a green builder. Green building is not about the tools – solar panels, slavaged materials etc – it is about the burning desire to help others.

Walt knew what it was about. If Eco Brooklyn with our goal to turn Brooklyn green can accomplish just a part of the good he did then we will be proud. Our next solar panel installation in Brooklyn will be in honor of him! Part of our proceeds will go to his organization SunEnergy Power International.

Walt Ratterman in Pakistan
Walt in Pakistan

SEI is deeply saddened by the loss of Walt Ratterman, who perished in the January 12 earthquake in Haiti.  Walt was an instructor, alumni, supporter and friend of SEI.  He was also an incredibly dedicated one-of-a-kind individual who touched thousands of people’s lives around the world.  Walt was in Haiti working on solar projects for health clinics with the organization that he cofounded, SunEnergy Power International (SunEPI).  SunEPI works around the world to improve people’s quality of life with renewable energy technologies in remote, rural areas.

Some of Walt’s work can be seen in Adrian Belic’s award winning film “Beyond the Call” which documents Knightsbridge International, a humanitarian and medical aid organization to which Walt belonged that worked in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Walt Ratterman in the Ecuadoran Amazon
Walt in the Ecuadoran Amazon

Walt and his Knightsbridge buddies were described as a cross between Indiana Jones and Mother Theresa, and there is no better way to describe Walt.  Fear was not a word in his vocabulary, and he had a heart of gold.  And that is probably an understatement on both accounts.  Whether it was crossing the border into Burma in the middle of the night with solar equipment to train Burmese medical technicians, or wearing a burqa in Afghanistan under the Taliban to see what it was like to be a woman in that country, Walt’s quest for knowledge and his desire to help those in need was extraordinary.  If there were people in need, and Walt could help, it didn’t matter their geographic, political or religious affiliation, he would be there.  To Walt, humanitarian aid knew no boundaries.

Walt brought solar training and humanitarian aid to Rwanda, Uganda, Afghanistan, Benin, Burundi, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Palestine, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the list goes on.  And the list of NGO’s he worked with is almost as long as the countries he worked in.  The Solar Electric Light Fund, Green Empowerment, the Border Green Energy Team, Solar Energy International, Engineers without Borders, Light Up the World, and many others all benefited from Walt’s incredible knowledge and dedication.

SEI feels privileged to have known and worked with Walt over the years.  Although he is now gone from this Earth, his spirit lives on, in the many thousands of lives around the world that he has touched, and the remarkable work that people he has inspired will keep on doing.

He was truly a solar hero.

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