A year after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) first announced it would map wind and solar sites in 13 developing countries, the United States' National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has joined the project. UNEP says the entry of the US into the program will give a boost to the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) program (Windpower Monthly, October 2001). As a result of the agreement with NREL, SWERA will add the Maldives in the Indian Ocean to the list of countries and expand work in Bangladesh. Other countries that will benefit from the mapping are Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka. UNEP says that gathering wind data now could shave 12 months from a developer's timeline. The lack of electricity in poor countries slows economic development, but it also has severe environmental consequences, says UNEP's Klaus Toepfer. "Those without access to electricity are forced to fell trees for firewood and cooking fuel, accelerating impacts such as soil erosion and the loss of the world's wildlife." Providing maps of wind and solar sites in those countries will ensure that future energy development follows a clean path.
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