Renewable Energy in the Developing World
About this time last year Claire Carlson, Solar Oregon’s former Executive Director, and I met for the first time through a service learning trip. We both signed up for travel to rural Nicaragua to learn about renewable energy in the developing world. For me it was the allure of traveling to Latin America, living with the local people and having a hands-on experience with solar installation. I've worked in the marketing side of renewable energy but I wanted to see the technical side and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I won't get into the details of how Claire talked me into joining the Solar Oregon board, but I will mention how amazing this experience was.
The trip was hosted by Green Empowerment (GE), a Portland-based nonprofit working on sustainable development worldwide. They host similar trips annually with universities such as Virginia Tech and Portland State University. Last year's trip was the first of its kind with an assembly of industry professionals. “The trip provides renewable energy professionals an opportunity to see how a simple solar panel has a tangible and positive benefit for a rural community,” said Aaron Green, Technical Program Manager at GE.
Green Empowerment works closely with the Nicaraguan-run non-government agency Asofenix to provide small communities with clean water and renewable energy. The 2013 group installed solar panels on three individual households in the villages of El Balsamo and El Jocote. Each installation used one 50-watt panel, which is enough to power four or five light bulbs for a few hours at night, a bit of TV watching and cell-phone charging. The panels are hooked up to a 12 volt battery which charges during the day and supplies power at night.
The efforts of GE and their local partners help many rural communities around the world have access to potable water or electricity. Many Nicaraguan women and girls spend a lot of time bringing water into the village, carrying five-gallon buckets on their heads. Small scale hydro and irrigation projects help relieve this burden.
Another Green Empowerment trip for renewable energy professionals is scheduled for April 26th through May 4th and there is still room if you’re looking for a little adventure. If you want something a bit more local GE will be offering a two day Renewable Energy workshop on April 12-13th across the river in Vancouver, WA.