blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


Wind Power Workshop in Dakar, Sénégal

Clément Joulain was a volunteer with blueEnergy in Nicaragua in 2008 and 2009 working on wind turbine design, construction and testing.
Clément Joulain working on a blueEnergy
wind turbine at INATEC in Bluefields, Nicaragua

By Clément Joulain - Do you know that there are a growing number of organizations using locally made wind turbines for rural electrification? Many organizations all over the world are working on a similar concept. Some of these pioneers are isolated and do not benefit from strong interactions with other similar organizations. This network needs to be empowered.

In February 2011, blueEnergy, in association with Eolsénégal of Senegal and Tripalium of France, and with generous support from Schneider Electric, will co-host an international wind turbine conference in Dakar, Sénégal. This event will take place during the World Social Forum, from the 8th to the 12th of February.

The structure is innovative, with formal meetings and discussions combined with a practical course in order to build a 3-meter diameter turbine and several small machines for household electrification. People attending the course will be local people, craftsman, international experts, politicians and more.

Hugh Piggott, the guru of small wind, is the special guest. Many of his jet-set disciples will be there from Madagascar, Cameroon, Mozambique, Palestine, Korea, Mali, USA, Germany, Peru, and Nicaragua.

Another goal of this event is to build the foundation of an international Association of local wind turbine builders, to support the network, create a website and discussion board, organize other conferences, and help organizations with fundraising by themselves or in groups.

If you would like to attend, please contact Anne Cécile ( or Clément ( for more information.
The blueEnergy wind turbine team in October, 2008 in Bluefields, Nicaragua:
Jonathan O'Toole, Sébastien Lohr, Hugh Piggott, Clément Joulain,
Loïc Quéval, Mathias Craig and Olivier Coupiac


Baptist well drilling pilot project wraps up

By Thibaut Demaegdt -- Back in August, blueEnergy received a kind visit from Paul Cloesen, a Belgian expert in Baptist well drilling, who trained blueEnergy water technicians on this appropriate technology. Paul had previously drilled more than 200 wells in several regions of Nicaragua, but he had never come to the Caribbean coast and the technology had not reached Bluefields.

Paul stayed for a week in Bluefields, during which he helped blueEnergy build the drilling tools and dig the first well. He trained us on all the aspects of well drilling, so that when he left, we felt confident that we could continue drilling wells on our own. Indeed, after Paul left, four additional wells were drilled and have proven to work well.
Well beneficiary digging while Vince and Paul discuss 

A Baptist well consists of a 2” PVC casing with a home-made PVC hand pump. All the materials are locally available and the drilling tools were built in blueEnergy’s workshop. A 60-foot deep well costs approximately $50 in materials, plus the workforce of a 10-person team during a week. The beneficiaries are highly involved in the drilling process and are also trained on how to build their own pump. In case something breaks, they are, therefore, able to fix or replace it, which will make the wells sustainable.

Baptist wells are deeper than regular hand-dug wells, which makes it possible to pump water from less contaminated layers. Samples will be analyzed by the Health Department to confirm that the water quality of Baptist wells is better compared to regular wells. In a city such as Bluefields where the soils are heavily polluted, this could have important sanitary repercussions.
Pumping water from a finished well
This pilot project has been a bigger success than expected: many people in Bluefields have heard of the wells and want one. So far, blueEnergy has not figured out the best way to meet the demand and spread this technology...carry out the whole drilling process, train people to drill their own well, perhaps?

A project for 30 wells in Bluefields funded by French institutions has recently been approved and will start in early 2011. Baptist wells are also a suitable technology for remote communities where the density of population is low and traditional wells are too costly to be considerate as a viable alternative. 

1.2kW solar install in Tiktik Kaanu

By Casey Callais -- It was a long and challenging five days. We arrived after a sun-scorched ride up a jungle river, worked under constant threat of tarantulas, scorpions and a snake locally known as a mata vaca (cowkiller), and shared our rooms with bats and cockroaches that could carry off anyone who dared step on them (well, that part is an exaggeration, but trust me when I say they were BIG). The setting: Tiktik Kaanu, a Rama indian village on the Kukra River, deep in the Nicaraguan jungle. We had set out for the CETAF agro-forestry campus of the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University. The challenge: we had less than a week to install a 1.2kW solar panel system to provide renewable energy to the caretakers' home and CETAF meeting hall. There are no phones, no electricity, no running water and no Home Depot around the corner if we needed extra screws. And of course, no hospital if the mata vaca decided to try his luck on we humans.

Control panel, battery bank and the donors that made it happen
We humans were six. Ronald ran the show. He is from Bluefields, Nicaragua and is the Director of Operations for blueEnergy. Alex is from Tiktik and has been working with blueEnergy for over a year. Vince is from France and is the coordinator for the productive uses of blueEnergy. If it is powered by our installations, he is in charge of it. Guillaume is a blueEnergy intern whose arrival was timed to give his engineering expertise. Then there was Simon who captured the installation on video and, of course, there was me. I was in charge of trip logistics and the house wiring. We were a team of blueEnergy veterans mixed with bE newbies in a community only one of us had been to. But we quickly found that we all were happy to brave the jungle creepy crawlies and put in the hard hours to get the job done.

Day one one team determined the optimal panel position while the second team began wiring the meeting hall. Day two was spent setting the foundations for the solar array and work began on the control panel. The solar panels were put in an day three, and the remaining days were spent running wires, cutting conduit, installing fixtures and working on the control panel. Needless to say, the days were long and sometimes frustrating. On day four I was thinking how nice it would be to have that Home Depot around the corner for more screws, but we made due with what we had. Before the caretakers had finished preparing lunch, we would run to the river for a quick swim. After lunch, it was back to wiring lights and running conduit, or positioning the control panel and installing breakers.  

On the last day as we were finishing up, representatives from the university arrived to inspect their new system. We had installed enough solar capacity and batteries to keep the ten rooms and the auditorium lit up throughout the night. We had given the students the opportunity to do their work later than sunset. The university was thrilled and the caretakers ecstatic. We were exhausted but very happy with the results.

Solar panels with the meeting hall/dorm behind

Check out the video in Spanish/English with French subtitles!

Nicaraguan renewable energy alliance RENOVABLES makes strides

RENOVABLES alliance pushing for change
RENOVABLES working hard on policy change
By Lal Marandin -- The RENOVABLES alliance and the Ministry of Energy and Mines set up two ad-hoc work groups to address improvements that the Alliance requires be made national legal norms on Renewable Energy production and distribution in Nicaragua. The first ad-hoc work group addressed the unfair legal status of small hydro producers and concessions. The second was a think tank on how to implement feed-in tariffs for renewable energy and focused on a pilot experiment for net metering. 

The work session involved representatives of the relevant expertise within RENOVABLES and Representatives of the Ministry at the Department Director level.  

blueEnergy has been key in the RENOVABLES alliance's creation and growth, with bE Managua Director, Lal Marandin, serving as Secretary. 

Minister of Energy and Mines, Ing. Emilio Rappaccioli welcomes RENOVABLES and pledges his support to work in partnership.
From left: E. Rappaccioli, Marlyng Buitrago (of Prolena, President of RENOVABLES), Lâl Marnadin (of blueEnergy, Secretary of RENOVABLES), Jaime Munoz (of AsoFénix, Vice-President), Ing. Donald Espinosa (Secretary general of the Ministry of Energy) and Roberto Sosa (Board Member of RENOVABLES).

RENOVABLES alliance welcomes its first Executive Driector
By Lal Marandin -- On November 22nd the RENOVABLES alliance hired Ms. Dinora Sandino, its first ever Executive Director who was selected amongst 170 candidates. 

Dinora has an extensive experience in the non-profit sector, and has worked the last decade with CARE in Nicaragua on a wide range of development projets.
Welcome Dinora!

RENOVABLES meets with partner HIDRORED
By Lal Marandin -- Rafael Portal Escobar, from Practical Action Peru and member of HIDRORED, visited the offices of RENOVABLES for a very productive work session on November 22nd. The Ministry of Energy and Mines (Mr. Rolando Reyes) also attended. 


National Renewable Energy Prizes 2010

By Lal Marandin -- The Nicaraguan Minister of Energy and Mines attended the 2010 Ceremony of the National Prizes for best projects in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Three winners were distinguished in the following categories: clean businesses, education and community impact. blueEnergy was awarded 2nd place of the latter and received the prestigious ERA symbol, as well as $700. 

Nicaraguan Minister of Energy Emilio Rappaccioli (4th from left), bE Managua Director Lal Marandin (3rd from right)
and bE National Director Guillaume Craig (2nd from right)
2nd place ERA prize goes to blueEnergy


Give the Gift of Light!

On Monday, December 6, blueEnergy rolled out its 3rd annual Gift of Light: 2,000,000 Hours of Light fundraising campaign.  Last year, the campaign raised over $16,500; this year, we’re aiming for $25,000 and we need your help.  With every $1 donation equivalent to 80 hours of light, that’s equivalent to an additional 2,000,000 hours of light for our beneficiaries.

The idea of energy is difficult to conceptualize in the industrialized world; it’s viewed as a commodity, a public utility, something we take for granted. And yet, millions of people around the world live without it, using kerosene lamps to light their homes, inefficient stoves to cook with, and no access to communication or health services.  On the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, over 75% of the population lack electricity.  This holiday season, help us make a difference.  Our goal is to raise $25,000 by December 31, 2010.

blueEnergy would like to extend a very special thank to the Gift of Light Ambassadors for their support:
·                  Alexina Clarke
·                  Ashley Krupski
·                  Ashley Rupp
·                  Chudi Ndubaku
·                  Gabrielle and Jonathan Clarke
·                  Janesta and Aaron Edmonds
·                  Locey Pfeiffer
·                  Mike Dow
·                  Ramin Taleghani

We need your help to spread the word. There are many different ways to get involved:

  1. Donate!
  2. Spread the news!  Help us increase the bE network by telling friends and family about the campaign and asking them to donate.
  3. Visit our website to keep tabs as the campaign unfolds.
  4. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thank you for your continued support!


Biography: Mathias Craig, Midland School Alum

By Mathias Craig -- When I was 16 I attended Midland School about 45 miles north of Santa Barbara in California. Midland is an amazing place where you learn traditional high school material but also develop a close connection to the land. Midland teaches students to differentiate between needs and wants, to live intentionally and conscientiously and to work for the greater communal good. Alum Peter Coonradt has produced a movie about Midland entitled Midland Stories. As part of the film, Peter visited blueEnergy in San Francisco and Nicaragua to trace my life since graduating and to highlight Midland's influence on that  journey.

Peter says of the film, "Midland School is the microcosm, the metaphor, the paradigm, the embodiment of what I find beautiful, sane, healthy, worthwhile and the direction I'd like to see humanity move. The people in Midland Stories embody strengths and values I admire, and they add up to a community I'm lucky to be connected to. I made this movie to remind myself what the right kind of world looks like and feels like. These stories weave together vastly different perspectives on the Midland experience. Midland Stories is a sequel to “Midland,” the movie I made a couple years ago about my rediscovery of Midland School after being away from it and not thinking about it for forty years. That first movie takes place entirely at Midland, and it's meant to convey the sense of place and the flow of rugged, elemental daily life. However it doesn't confront the question of how Midland is relevant and connected to the rest of the world. I don't raise that question explicitly here in Midland Stories, but it was in the back of my mind the whole time I was making it. What has real value? How can you apply your Midland experience to live a fulfilling, useful life? How can we make the rest of the world more like Midland?"

All of the chapters of Midland Stories are available online here.

blueEnergy wind turbine building workshops

By Mathias Craig -- blueEnergy has been building wind turbines in Nicaragua since 2004 to electrify remote villages and provide backup power for their facilities in Bluefields. In the last year, blueEnergy France introduced wind turbine building workshops in Paris both for the general public and as a corporate team-building activity. The purpose of these workshops has been to raise awareness of renewable energy and raise unrestricted funding to support blueEnergy's general operation. 

blueEnergy US is excited to announce that starting in early 2011 it will be offering wind turbine building workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in California with the same goals as the French workshops. The initial workshops will be targeted at high school and college students. blueEnergy has already drafted an initial agreement for the first such workshop to take place in the Spring at Midland High School (Mathias Craig's alma mater). Additional workshops are being discussed for Santa Clara University and Stanford.


blueEnergy in the news

Read about blueEnergy in the latest issue of Wind Directions online magazine:

Y si lees Espanol, puedas leer un articulo de blueEnergy por La Prensa Libre:


Service Learning Intern Guillaume talks about his experiences with blueEnergy

Guillaume Miltin is an intern that participated in our Service Learning Program in August, 2010. Guillaume worked with us for three weeks before starting his freshman year in studying business in his hometown of Paris, France.

Digging wells using the baptist method
By Guillaume Miltin – I spent one month at an NGO call blueEnergy located in Bluefields on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. I was there to help, learn and understand how an NGO works.

I was very grateful for this volunteer trip because I learned a lot about this country, such as the culture, religion, the different food, how to dance like a Nica and above all I learned to wait and be patient for transport!

During the first part of my stay I worked with Vincent, helping him in his mission to build wells for five families from the same neighborhood. It was very interesting for me because I never worked on such a project and the building was rather impressive. We built one well per week.

Bing Crosby's homemade turbine
After that, I went one week with Casey in the Corn Islands for a special mission: find renewable energy systems on the two islands. It was an awesome mission because we did the complete circle of the two islands to find these systems, and we discovered many amazing things and people.

It was a very good thing for me to travel alone and discover a country of Central America, which is very different than any of the other countries I have visited.

Thanks for all of your help, Guillaume!


Raising the turbine in Monkey Point

A quickie showing an installation and raising of the blueDiamond 4 1kW turbine in Monkey Point, Nicaragua.

Efficient stoves by Prolena

Nicaraguan NGO Prolena hosted a workshop on their high-efficiency cook stoves. The majority of the Nicaraguan population cook their food using very inefficient wood-burning stoves. Prolena's designs reduce the need for fuel and last much longer than the traditional stoves. The improved design saves money, indoor air pollution and time.


Alumni Spotlight: Anneliese Schmidt and Ken Weaver

Anneliese (Ali) Schmidt and Ken Weaver joined blueEnergy in December of 2008. During their six-month volunteering period, the married couple served as community mediators within the village of Kahkabila, where blueEnergy had installed two renewable energy systems for the health center and classrooms. Of those six months, approximately half their time was spent in Bluefields doing preparatory work, working with other volunteers, and developing curricula for their trips to the community. The remainder of their time was divided into three separate extended stays in Kahkabila; during these trips, the couple helped with maintenance and repairs of the two on-site energy systems, as well as supporting various projects and capacity-building workshops initiated by blueEnergy. Their biggest draw to this particular volunteer assignment, however, was its open-ended nature. During their three months in the community, Ali and Ken also worked as secondary school teachers to help fill vacancies in the curricula (teaching geography, writing and science), taught night classes in formal English (utilizing the electricity from the blueEnergy system), worked with FADCANIC to help facilitate and build a Kahkabila tourism center, and conducted energy audits for various households after the village started receiving grid electricity in March 2009.

Since returning to the States, Ali and Ken relocated to Sonoma County, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. Ali returned to work with her previous employer, Antares Group, Inc., a renewable energy consulting company based in Maryland. Her expertise in solar PV and biomass technologies is typically put to use in large-scale feasibility studies for government agencies and commercial businesses. She’s currently working on a technical and economic assessment that will help coal power plant facilities that are considering switching to renewable biomass fuels such as wood and agricultural residues.

Ken helping to make bricks for the new
tourism center in Kahkabila ©
Ali Schmidt
Ken also returned to work with his previous employer, New West Technologies, LLC, a renewable energy consulting company based in Colorado. He works part-time with the company, and both he and Ali work remotely from home together. Ken also writes professionally about craft beer, and writes fiction under the name K. M. Weaver. He is currently preparing a novel set in rural Nicaragua, which means he’s likely headed back at some point. His first freelance assignment will be appearing in the national publication All About Beer in early 2011. Ali, a semi-pro photographer, provided the photography for this article.

Ali and Ken recently crossed paths with blueEnergy once again for the organization’s annual fundraising gala in San Francisco, facilitating the beer donation and volunteering as bartenders for the event. They were surprised and happy to see a number of fellow bE alumni who also attended. They look forward to being involved with blueEnergy’s fundraisers and related events in the future.


Strategic planning and strengthening partnerships

By Mathias Craig -- After the conclusion of blueEnergy's successful 2nd annual Taste of Nicaragua Gala, the blueEnergy International executive team headed off on a 3-day strategic retreat. The objective was to formally kick off a 2+ month period of working to set blueEnergy's direction for the next 3 years. Teams in Nicaragua, France and the US had met prior to the retreat to give input into the global planning process. Subsequently, the national teams will take the output of the international strategy retreat and continue working to develop national strategies that are in alignment over the next 1-2 months. In this way, it is structured as a bottom-up, top-down process that both includes a broad base of voices and is structured consistently. We were very fortunate to have Jeremy Allan participate as the retreat facilitator. Jerry, as he is known around here, worked with blueEnergy for 6 months in 2009 as has continued on a valued advisor from his home in London. The results of the strategic planning process will be available publicly in December.

After the retreat, the international executive team was fortunate to be invited by founder Joseph Marino to visit DC Power Systems, the US' leading value-added distributor of renewable energy products. DC Power Systems has a leading renewable energy training program and Joseph is passionate about helping nonprofit renewable energy organizations strengthen their capacities. He also shares a passion for Nicaragua and has worked on several solar installations for clinics.
left to right: Mathias Craig, Guillaume Craig, Joseph Marino, Anne-Cecile Mailfert, Jeremy Allan, Lâl Marandin

blueEnergy France constructs two-day turbine workshop

During th last weekend of September, blueEnergy France organized a windturbine construction workshop in Paris. For two days, six people learned everything necessary to build a windturbine: how to carve a blade, how to wind a coil, how to cast resin and how to weld steel and solder copper. The only step missing was digging the foundations!

We also were happy to receive the help of Esteban and Fernando, two former bE Nicaragua volunteers who were guests in Paris. This first experience was a success for everybody, and the blueEnergy France team will soon repeat it.

RENOVABLES welcomes new members

By Lal Marandin -- On August 19th, the RENOVABLES alliance proudly announced that it was joined by the major players of the hydroelectric (Tumarin), the windpower (AMAYO) and the geothermal (POLARIS) sectors. RENOVABLES now has 22 active institutional members belonging to all the renewable energy sectors of the country. blueEnergy has been elected Secretary of the organization, and the presidency was voted to Proleña (on the pictures, Marlyng Buitrago, President of RENOVABLES). The PRONicaragua agency, a non-profit promoting international invesment in Nicaragua, was accepted as the first “honorary member” of the association. 

Miss Nicaragua Makes her First Trip to San Francisco, to Support blueEnergy’s 2nd Annual Taste of Nicaragua Gala

By Lizzie Reisman -- This year’s Miss Nicaragua pageant winner, Scharllette Allen Moses visited San Francisco for the first time this month to support blueEnergy and promote her platform of creating a brighter future for Nicaraguan children.

Miss Nicaragua 2010 with current and former bE staff
Miss Moses’ visit to San Francisco was planned to coincide with the 2nd annual “Taste of Nicaragua Gala”, a fundraising event for blueEnergy’s renewable energy and sustainable development work in Nicaragua. Miss Moses, who was born and raised in Bluefields, has known about and supported blueEnergy’s work for years. "I'll be the face and voice of Nicaragua, especially in my country where [blueEnergy is] carrying out these projects,” she said in a press conference in Managua on September 7.  “My mission will be to provide more for the development of this region." 

Miss Moses arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 and attended the “Taste of Nicaragua Gala” at the Officer’s Club in 1 Fort Mason the following day. Outside of her support for the Gala, her trip was filled with many other exciting events. Miss Moses arrival in San Francisco caught the attention of many media outlets in the Bay Area, and she gave one-on-one interviews at Estrella, Univision, and Telemundo. A separate press conference was organized for other media personnel, including El Reportero and Miss Moses also visited the Oakland Children’s Hospital and Research Center where she surprised and brightened the day for many of the children undergoing treatment there. Her time in San Francisco was very well spent, as Miss Moses hopes to return to San Francisco in the future.

blueEnergy was honored to have Miss Moses’ support during and after the Gala.

Forum on the Nicaraguan Energy Legal framework

By Lal Marandin -- On August 19th, the RENOVABLES alliance in partnership with UNDP Nicaragua, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and BCIE’s ARECA project ( held a historic forum at Hotel Barcelo Managua attended by all the legal experts and major players of the energy sector. The objective of the event was to summarize 10 years of proposed improvements to the national legal dispositions to incentivize renewable energy and allow the private sector, non-profit as well as for profit, to continue and support the changes that are required to continue the growth of renewables in the country. As part of the organizing committee of the event and as co-founder of RENOVABLES, blueEnergy was key in bringing the key players in the same room and creating the conditions for the Ministry to agreed on a series of next steps to address immediately some of the most concerning issues. 



Miss Nicaragua Press Conference

By Lal Marandin -- Miss Nicaragua 2010 Scharllette Allen Moses joined blueEnergy’s team in Managua to express her support to the efforts and dedication of the teams and the ground, and congratulate the NGO on its impact. In her own words, “blueEnergy and I have 2 things in common: we  are both born in Bluefields, and want to help the Caribbean Coast to break its cycle of poverty”. 

Miss Moses and blueEnergy gave a press conference to announce that she had agreed to travel to San Francisco to appear in blueEnergy’s 2nd Annual Taste of Nicaragua Gala and support the event on September 23rd 2010. On behalf of blueEnergy’s entire team in the RAAS, in Managua, the USA and France, co-founder Lâl Marandin expressed the honor and the gratefulness of blueEnergy family for Scharllette’s generous gesture and her offer to be an Ambassador of blueEnergy and the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.


Just to let you know that we'll be having a Press conference tomorrow at 8.30am in Managua to announce Scharllette's support to blueEnergy's Gala.