There is good news for Mongolian nomads on both sides of the Russian-Mongolian border: Your centuries-old traditional dwelling is about to receive a welcome upgrade.
The incredibly functional yurt, or "ger" for those on the Mongolian side of the border, is easy to set up or take apart and is wonderful for escaping the cold of winter and reducing the heat of summer. But the modern nomad often has electrical devices -- small televisions or radios, electric lights, and so on. That has required transporting diesel generators on carts (plus canisters for carrying fuel) as the seasons force the nomads and their herds on to greener pasture lands.
But now Russia's Republic of Tuva and Mongolia are jointly developing the "solar yurt," made from photovoltaic fibers. Top Tuva official Sholban Kara-ool announced the project, noting that the solar fibers would be able to charge a mobile phone or flashlight and that energy accumulated over the course of a sunny day could power televisions and electric lights during the night. Kara-ool claimed that the project would have a huge effect on Mongolia's campaign to have "100,000 solar gers" for its herders.
So, planning a trip to Mongolian friends on the steppe? Go ahead, bring your hairdryer or coffeemaker or laptop. The yurt of the future is ready for your appliances.
-- Bruce Pannier