The Nicaraguan Minister of Energy, Emilio Rappaccioli, recently visited the blueEnergy workshop at INATEC and attended a presentation describing blueEnergy’s mission, history and projects.
Lead by the Vice Director of blueEnergy Nicaragua, Ismael Castillo, the presentation covered the current installations in Monkey Point and Kahkabila. blueEnergy’s successes were described with video and photographs showing the work that had been done.
The visit also covered upcoming projects and included a tour of the workshop.
blueEnergy hosts Hugh Piggott in Bluefields and organizes renewable energy and sustainability conference
blueEnergy is pleased and excited to announce the arrival of world renowned small wind turbine guruHugh Piggott to Bluefields for two weeks, starting the 20th October. Apart from organizing and participating in wind turbine workshops all around the world, Hugh has published several books on the techniques of building wind turbines and is widely regarded as a leading authority on small scale, locally manufactured wind turbines. Mr. Piggott is extremely passionate about every facet of wind power development and revels in passing on this knowledge to as many people as possible. In his own words, "my books are written for those who want to build their own windmill and for those who dream."
During Mr. Piggott’s first week in Bluefields, he will be working together with the blueEnergy staff which includes local workers as well as volunteers from around the globe. Turbine fabrication and maintenance techniques, as well as design improvements on blueEnergy´s current turbine models will be the main focus of the internal workshop. The second week of Mr. Piggott´s stay will feature a conference hosted by blueEnergy around renewable energy and sustainable development in Nicaragua. Representatives from different organizations (SuniSolar, AsoFenix, ATDER, Hivos) and universities (National Technical University of Nicaragua) involved in this rapidly growing sector will be participating. Each participant will be giving a presentation about their organization and a case study as well as working with Mr. Piggott to learn turbine fabrication techniques. This conference is seen as a key step in the long-term development of renewable energy and sustainability within Nicaragua. The conference will conclude on Saturday, November 1st with an open event for all our guests, the public and the media aimed to increase awareness of blueEnergy´s presence in Bluefields.
Maintenance training class held at blueEnergy
blueEnergy held an internal one week maintenance training class in September. The goal of this class was not only to inform new volunteers on maintenance practices, but to also form a consensus among experienced personnel on exact methods and terminology that will be included in subsequent versions of the operator’s manual. The latter goal is significant as it will allow for consistency and completeness in work conducted within the communities, which is an essential criterion for success in the communities. Such consistency will ensure that successive trips in the communities will be able to reinforce maintenance principles without potentially causing confusion due to conflicting practices.
Overall the maintenance class went very well and the blueEnergy technical team in Bluefields took advantage of the practical aspect of the class and performed maintenance on the turbine installations at the INATEC campus in Bluefields.
Maintenance trip highlights blueEnergy successes and challenges
It was an early morning that kicked off a long week for the six members that made up the blueEnergy maintenance team last Wednesday. Rising at six a.m. for a seven o’clock departure, Loic, Clement, Casey, Sebastian, Gilberto set off with their fearless leader, Ismael, in a panga full of gear to perform diagnostics and maintenance training in the distant sites of Kahkabila, Set Net Point and Pearl Lagoon-FADCANIC. The team spent five days working their magic on system maintenance, diagnostics and community development.
Kahkabila The team made an afternoon visit to the installation in Kahkabila to install electronics and perform a general diagnostic of the equipment. The solar panel system had not been functioning since a recent suspected lightning strike. Loic installed a new charge controller for the solar array while Gilberto and Sebastian performed routine battery maintenance. Once the wind data logger was running the system was then tested and found to be operating normally once again. Now the residents who depend on the system daily will have a more consistent supply of electricity.
Also, the Centro de Salud was briefly surveyed as a site for a possible second installation. According to the locals, several more installations are needed to meet the needs of the 876-person community. Though the current system provides less than one KW, it is more power than the citizens have ever had.
"We have about 30-40 people using it to charge their cell phones. It is also used for lights in the school six days a week when we have adult classes in the evening," said the Village Coodinator, Lauterio Thomas Fox. "When the power stops, the people, they riot." He added, jokingly.
While riots may be an exaggeration, the fact is that it is not just Kahkabila that gains from the power the turbine and solar panels provide. People from the neighboring community of Brownbank make the three-mile journey to charge their cell phones as well. According to Lauterio, there is a constant stream of people charging their phones every week.
"We take care and are very proud about it," said Lauterio. "We see the benefits it brings."
Set Net Point The most remote installation surveyed by the blueEnergy team was Set Net Point. Running along a thin strip of coast between the mainland and the Cayos Perlas, Set Net is a picturesque community along the shore. blueEnergy installed a 12-foot diameter turbine and 24v solar array on the school grounds about one year ago. Set Net is the most challenging natural environment faced by blueEnergy to date and the deterioration of equipment from the salinity, heat and humidity is a concern.
While the engineers were performing the technical maintenance, Ismael held a small meeting with local residents. Addressing about a dozen people, Ismael described blueEnergy´s place in system maintenance as not solely responsible but rather, "in cooperation with the municipality." Expanding on Ismael´s words was the Planning Director for the Alcaldea de Lagunas de Perlas, Dexter Hooker. Describing the installation as a pilot program, Dexter stated, "If it could work it could be bigger. Everything is in your hands. You have to say if you want it to continue; it could work if you put more effort into it."
The meeting turned into an open forum discussion about the roles and responsibilities of maintenance. After raising the tower the team departed Set Net early in the evening with a full to-do list for the next visit.
Pearl Lagoon – FADCANIC The team’s first and last stop was the FADCANIC-sponsored school in Pearl Lagoon. The school was bustling with students upon arrival late Wednesday morning, many of who stopped to catch a glimpse of the work being done. The team lowered the tower with the intention of replacing the refurbished 8 ft turbine.
The blueEnergy team worked with several of the locals to make sure the work was completed in a timely manner. Of course, the intermittent rain showers threatened progress, but the team, not to be deterred, labored until after dusk making sure everything was working correctly.
The Sunday of the blueEnergy maintenance team’s departure began with a few electronics tests and a final coat of paint on the anchors. Shortly after the finishing touches were made, the rains returned and the team bade a soggy but happy farewell to Pearl Lagoon.
It was a long and tiring trip for the six-person team, but one that gave renewed insight into the reason blueEnergy is in operation. The communities visited and the work done were constant reminders of the positive work blueEnergy has thus-far achieved and the challenging road that lies ahead.
Volunteers finish extended stay at Monkey Point community
Over their three months with blueEnergy, volunteers Lynn Schneider and David Chalmers spent two months of complete immersion in the remote community of Monkey Point (MP), a community of about 300 people four hours south of Bluefields. Their stay marks the beginning of blueEnergy’s commitment to develop a greater presence in the communities it serves. This work to immerse volunteers within communities aims to strengthen blueEnergy’s understanding of community needs, lifestyles, and culture so that more appropriate methods of working with community can be developed.
As the first blueEnergy representatives to stay at Monkey Point for an extended time, Lynn and David accomplished a substantial amount. Their work was related to three topics: capacity building within the Energy Commission at MP, studying the socio-economic conditions and cultural dynamics of MP, and teaching various classes in the community. Lynn and David held weekly meetings and capacity building activities with the Energy Commission in an effort to develop regularity in the maintenance processes and a greater sense of ownership of the energy installation within the Energy Commission. To gain a greater understanding of the people and lifestyle of MP, Lynn and David documented the daily activities, struggles, and interactions of community members. Lastly, Lynn and David expanded interested community members knowledge of energy and other subjects pertinent to sustainable development through classes on subjects such as literacy, English language, health and sanitation, energy, and the environment. Most classes were well attended with between 15 and 30 children and young adults at each class.
Lynn and David’s work has already provided great insight to blueEnergy, and they have also provided great recommendations and documentation for blueEnergy to build on in the future.
Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)
Executive director Mathias Craig was granted a scholarship to attend a social entrepreneurship program for two weeks in mid-August. The GSBI is a program of the Center for Science, Technology and Society at Santa Clara University and its mission is to train social entrepreneurs to refine and scale their organizations and their impact. Mathias was among 16 entrepreneurs selected from around the world to attend the social enterpreneurship bootcamp, which featured business consulting and presentations from Silicon Valley executives from top tier companies and nonprofit
Applied materials award
The last year has been a successful one for blueEnergy and among the successes we are most proud of is our relationship with Applied Materials. We are honored to be a recipient of a grant from the Applied Materials Foundation in honor of employees that contributed at the Leadership Level through the Applied Materials’ Employee Giving Program and encouraged to see a company as established as Applied Materials taking a bold step to promote the development of renewable energy in communities that otherwise would have none.
Trojan battery company gives in big way
blueEnergy would like to thank the Trojan Battery Company for their recent donation of 40 deep-cycle batteries. The donation consisted of 24TM and L16H batteries, both ideally suited for stand-alone renewable energy applications. Trojan´s generous donation will help power the future of small communities in remote regions of Nicaragua. The donated batteries will help expand the reach of blueEnergy´s current installations, providing clean power to local schools and community facilities.
BP Solar panel donation advances progress
The recent arrival of solar panels donated by BP Solar was a welcome event for the team at blueEnergy Nicaragua. Several of the solar panels will be installed during the staff orientation so that long-term volunteers will have a better understanding of how they work.
"Being able to work hands-on with the solar panels will be the best way to learn how they work," said Casey Callais, a new volunteer from Texas. "Clean energy is the way forward, and I am excited to be able to help bring it to Nicaragua."
New volunteers join blueEnergy
The past few months have seen a lot of change amongst blueEnergy’s volunteer staff in Bluefields. Many volunteers left in August and September including Maxime Gouraud, from France, who worked for a year with blueEnergy setting up traveling logistics for community trips, organizing the workshop and the blueEnergy house, as well as accounting and technical support for many months. Stephanie Judd, from the US left after six months, and worked with the biosand water filter project. Maya Ward-Karet, also from the US, left after four months working on the CERCA training center project. Lynn Schneider and David Chalmers, also from the US, left after three months, and stayed in Monkey Point for an extended time to learn about the culture there and offer classes to the community. Christian Casillas and Josiah Johnston both Ph.D. students from the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, stayed for several months and left in August after conducting research on wind resources and sustainable lighting projects, respectively. Eliot Cayaso a student from Universidad Nacional de Ingeniera (UNI) in Managaua volunteered for about two months working on turbine construction.
In conjunction with the departure of those volunteers, blueEnergy has received many new volunteers, most of who will be working with blueEnergy for at least one year. There are four new volunteers from France: Loïc Queval, will be conducting characterization tests of the wind turbines; Hervé Chavagnon will be acting as volunteer manager for blueEnergy; Clément Joulain will be working with turbine design; and Olivier Coupiac will be managing technical processes and products for blueEnergy. Cormac Lacey, from Ireland, will be conducting data collection surveys to create several maps of the communities that blueEnergy serves. There are also four new volunteers from the US: Katherine Brandt will be working with the biosand filtration project; Scott White will be working as a field technician in the communities blueEnergy serves; Casey Callais will be working as the facilities manager for blueEnergy; and last but not least Alex Peterson will be developing policy and procedure documents for blueEnergy.
As a testament to blueEnergy’s growing capacity and capabilities, Bluefields is now home to 16 international blueEnergy staff members, and is poised to increase to 20 in the coming months. BlueEnergy is pleased to welcome all the new volunteers, and is eager to integrate them into the work environment.
Growth at blueEnergy headquarters in San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s blueEnergy office has also experienced exciting changes since the beginning of the summer. French volunteer Philibert Maniez contributed to information and technology systems in the early summer months, and blueEnergy said goodbye to its long-term administrative assistant Rachael Boggan.
Since then, the office acquired Alex Pederson (currently in Nicaragua), who left the material comfort of corporate and tax law to become a full-time blueEnergy volunteer, leading a tri-country accounting and legal effort. Alex has an affinity for the Oregon Ducks and a love of nonfiction, like PWC’s Nonprofit Accounting Guide. Ben Hyman also returned after 4 months of volunteering in Nicaragua to continue working on communications at the San Francisco office. Ben is thrilled to be working on various research projects with graduate students in his home town at UC Berkeley.
The SF office is pleased to have hired its lead accountant Leyla Guiterrez, a Colombia-native with 4 years of auditing experience in firms in both Colombia and San Francisco. Leyla is excited about blueEnergy’s financial progress, and is progressing quickly in her French class to accommodate the dynamic tri-lingual world of blueEnergy. San Francisco is also fortunate to have Anita Arackaparampil as a volunteer accountant working with Leyla. Anitha is from South Africa, has two years of experience in accounting and auditing, and feels right at home transitioning from the wildlife of South Africa to the non-profit environment in San Francisco.
Together, Alex, Ben, Leyla, Anitha, Mathias & Lorelei, put on a successful fund-raiser at a local San Francisco pub, establishing important connections in the Bay Area community and raising $2,300 for local Nicaraguan staff support. The office has grown extremely close, and is excited to have a long-term and committed staff working together in San Francisco.
blueEnergy France activities
blueEnergy engineers François Cochemé and Lâl Marandin led an exploratory and feasibility trip in Senegal from July 28th to August 10th. The purpose of the trip was to survey several areas of Senegal that could benefit from the development of local wind power and solar capabilities. François and Lâl visited the regions of Casamance, the Dakar area, the surroundings of Thiès and the St Louis region. They met with technical education officials, with university departments focusing on the promotion of renewable energy, with community leaders, with school teachers in isolated areas, with several NGO and development agencies. A very exciting moment of the trip was the field visit to Goback, a village in the northern region of Senegal where the CIFRES and Project EolSenegal installed a hybrid Piggott turbine and PV system on a community health center.