blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world

12/28/2011

Staff Spotlight: Accountant Sandra Pavón

By Angela Cacciola -- Three years ago, Sandra Pavón managed blueEnergy’s finances on an excel sheet, where she manually entered each transaction. Since those early days, blueEnergy has grown, expanding its local administrative staff from two to six. Today, as the head accountant at age twenty-one, Sandra trains co-employees and writes accounting procedures which revolve around bE’s newly acquired accounting program, Ares.

Fortunately, Sandra doesn’t have a lot of difficulties as the head account because as she says, she’s “been a bE accountant since the beginning, and know[s] how bE works.” However, she favored switching to the accounting program more suitable for conditions in Nicaragua that has empowered the sustainability of the local administration staff. Although blueEnergy acquired an accounting system in between Sandra’s arrival and now, it was in English and all technical support was through the US. This new program has a manual in Spanish and technical support in Managua, making it easier for internal education and problem solving.

Native to Bluefields, Sandra not only works for blueEnergy, she also attends BICU university as a full-time student. This year, she completes her third of a four-year civil engineering program, which she attends three nights during the week. Next year, she begins a five-year business administration program on Saturdays. These classes will help her “understand things like contracts between blueEnergy” and other organizations. “Learning more about the technical part [also] enables me to better understand the administrative part which is largely based around the finances of technical projects,” Sandra says. She also hopes to use her technical knowledge to work with blueEnergy’s energy or water teams in the future.

Sandra enjoys accounting, everything that has to do with analysis, finances, how to improve processes and economics..Her time spent in the administration office makes her work more interesting. The relations between women are good and she also benefits from the culture exchange inherent to working with international volunteers.
(L - R) Sandra with co-worder Yarlenne

“When I started, bE wasn’t well known here in Bluefields because a majority of the work was done in remote communities in the RAAS (southern autonomous region). Everyone would ask me what bE does. Now, with all of the contracts bE has done, especially all the work in Bluefields, it’s given itself to be better known. I believe that in the future, in the next five years, bE will be a big NGO that offers services in more communities, and eventually has the capacity to do projects in the RAAN (northern autonomous region) as well.”

12/21/2011

WaSH Team Holds Internal Training

By Angela Cacciola -- Before beginning her next adventure, French engineer Agathe De La Chaise, held three days of training for blueEnergy’s Water and Sanitation (WaSH) Team to conclude her eight months volunteering here in Bluefields, Nicaragua. Agathe said she was happily “amazed at the response and enthusiasm the team expressed,” despite the significant amount of time the training took away from daily demands. The water team and its supporting members consist of seven locals and two additional international volunteers.
Agathe describing soil types to the Water and Sanitation Team

Even with typical setbacks of a workday in Bluefields, which included a massive fumigation to eradicate mosquitoes, heavy tropical showers on the metal roof and noisy carpentry work next door, the team found a way to make the most of their time spent together. Training was focused on evaluating the five wells that have been dug in Bluefields over the past year and improvements that can be made on the remaining wells that will be dug in 2012. “We want the five or six families who put the effort into building the wells to use them so we are making them easier, more user friendly,” said Thibaut Demaegdt, coordinator of the Water and Sanitation Team.

During the training, Agathe noted that “each of the members contributed with clever ideas and relevant questions and objections. It was more passing information and exchanging technical points of view than teaching.” She continued to say it was quite “exciting to facilitate this giant soup of knowledge.” The team discussed the hydrology of the soil they were digging in, specifically under which conditions it is best to stop drilling the well so it resides in a good aquifer. They examined the drilling process, including the social work necessary to gather people and motivate them. Proposals were made to improve the digging process, such as using a bigger drill bit with stronger materials and developing other tools to help guide the drill vertically. Lastly, they reviewed the installation and activation of each well and came up with ways to make the wells cleaner by using different types of sand and chlorine disinfectant. Local technician, Vladimir, commented, “the training was very important. It was a good experience, one that allows us to better the technical details and criteria of the projects we work on.”

This type of learning is important for the success and sustainability of the water team, who will be lead by a local Nicaraguan beginning early next year when Thibaut heads back to France. This transition is another big step for blueEnergy and the Water and Sanitation Team, who will be the first technical team to undergo local management.
Local technician Ronald explaining well drilling ideas to Agathe

Recent additions to the water team include a member of the municipal government and Alonso, one of the beneficiaries of the wells that have been dug. He knows firsthand the difficulties of drilling a well in extremely hard, clay soil. His leadership qualities and his ability to motivate other beneficiaries throughout the tiresome task make him a highly valuable asset to the team.

Agathe mentioned that she hopes “there will be a good follow up so everything that has been discussed on the training will be taken into account on site.” However, from the eagerness displayed on the faces of the team throughout the training, it is hard to imagine the team will forget what they have learned. The training will undoubtedly benefit the future of the Water and Sanitation Team and the quality of their enormous workload that contributes to blueEnergy’s efforts to create a “more equitable and sustainable world.”

12/15/2011

bE Building Global Leaders: Alumns Continuing to Give the Gift of Light!

By Angela Cacciola - When Luciana Proietti met Esteban van Dam in 2009 while she was volunteering with him for blueEnergy Bluefields, Nicaragua, she never imagined they would fall in love and start an NGO together.  Since returning to Argentina in 2010, their passions and experiences have inspired them to co-found 500rpm. Similar to blueEnergy, 500rpm recognizes the need to work in both development and advocacy.  Along with its efforts to bring wind energy to rural schools in Argentina, it engages to change the country’s current energy policies. Luciana notes the importance of accompanying “our actions in favor of development, with political actions on local and even national governments, not only to achieve greater impact, but also to discuss and democratize our ideas.”
Luciana in Bluefields, Nicaragua with local children.

Luciana is not new to environmental or development work within her country.  In 2008, she worked with Greenpeace and Action Against Hunger as a volunteer coordinator on an energy efficiency campaign.  However, she never imagined or realized that in Argentina “2,000 schools operate without power and 2,000,000 people live in the dark!”  Fortunately these startling numbers did not discourage her.  As a 30-year old finishing her masters in non-government organizations, she has bright plans for 500rpm to build an Argentina “full of wind turbines, economically and environmentally sustainable, and free of greenhouse gases emissions.”

At blueEnergy, Luciana or “Luz” (Spanish for “light”) as she became fondly known in the Creole communities, gained priceless experience traveling and working in the capacity building and community teams along the Atlantic coast.  blueEnergy Nicaragua Director  Guillaume Craig remembers her as “the most bubbly person… but, always very engaged and asking a lot of questions to get to the deeper issues.”  Luciana also recalls her time spent at blueEnergy with delight, “I found everything I was looking for…one of the best things [being] the people and their cultures!”  In fact, the experience “promised all that interested me: the care of the environment, multiculturalism,, development work and adventure.”

Luciana collecting water from a blueEnergy
biosand filter in Monkey Point, Nicaragua.
500rpm uses the same type of turbine Luciana and Esteban learned about at blueEnergy that was developed by Hugh Piggott, a Scottish engineer of Scoraig Wind Electric.  Many development organizations around the world have adopted Piggott’s unique and simple turbine design, as it requires minimal maintenance and can be constructed manually with local materials.  500rpm installs wind turbines in communities throughout Argentina. The power generated from the turbines serves as the principal source of energy within these communities.   

Luciana at 500rpm demonstrating how to build a wind turbine coil.
Currently, 500rpm is strengthening the structure of their organization through communications and fundraising so they may expand their efforts in the future.  “500rpm wants to implement projects in all the schools possible,” Luciana says. Even though the Argentinean government is currently working to electrify rural schools throughout the country, “there are still a lot of people without energy.  So we have work to do!” For 500rpm, blueEnergy, and the rest of the world involved in bringing light to developing areas, she couldn’t be more correct.

The first wind turbine light installation done by 500rpm.

12/07/2011

Community Leaders Learn First-Hand About bE Projects

By Angela Cacciola -- Earlier this month, blueEnergy happily hosted 25 local community leaders from the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua to demonstrate its projects and work areas. The group’s time with blueEnergy was part of a four-segment course being held by the coastal development organization FADCANIC in coordination with local university URACCAN that focuses on understanding how renewable energies contribute to slowing climate change. This collaborative event signified yet another push forward in blueEnergy’s efforts to bring together diverse teams, technology and resources to create opportunities in some of the most challenging contexts that address the pressing global challenges of tomorrow.

The group began their morning at INATEC, the Nicaraguan technical school in Bluefields where blueEnergy houses its workshop and technical systems. The head of bE’s technical team, Pedro Neves, gave an overview of the energy team’s solar dryer and solar panel projects. He recognized the vast amount of knowledge and skills communities have developed to function, and the difficulties brought about when outsiders try to impose their customs or ideas. “What I’ve learned is that in the end, the best solution is the one you get by the community,” Pedro says. “The community people have so much knowledge already. If you add a little bit of knowledge from the modern world, they come up with the rest and you have the solution.”
Pedro Neves explaining the solar dryer

Such is the case with solar dryers, an idea that originated through communities who dry their food to preserve it, but face troubles related to insects and unpredictable rain. Hortencia Hernandez, vice president of the Rama Key Organization of Women, emphasized how important it is to for the women in her community to dry their shrimp and what a blessing it would be to have the solar dryers that would eliminate those problems. She also expressed her joy at attending the course, “This is the first time I’ve been to a place where they show you how they mechanically do the environmentally friendly stuff. It’s a pleasure for me to come here and see what systems you have and contribute to the changing of climate situation.”

Pedro’s presentation was followed up with comments from blueEnergy Nicaragua Director, Guillaume Craig, who said, “We work together. That’s the idea. Most people can’t pay $100 or more for their system, so they come and they contribute [to the building].” This was acknowledged by a community leader from San Vincente, John Sambola, who later commented, “[What we are learning]…It’s very important. All you have to do is let the people work together.”
Jorge explaining the water filters

Local blueEnergy technician Jorge Perez along with French engineer, Thibaut Demaegdt, presented the water and sanitation team’s projects of wells, water filters and solar latrines. After visiting a beneficiary home where a well was installed this year, the group was off to their next place of learning. In the future, blueEnergy hopes to continue working with FADCANIC, URACCAN and other local organizations to facilitate similar exchanges of knowledge.

11/29/2011

The Gift of Light: Rocky Point, Nicaragua




By Angela Cacciola -- “I didn’t ask for it! But by God, am I thankful. We got light!” exclaims Miss Suzanny after her solar panel installation. Our two days in Rocky Point are filled with emphatic expressions like these. Earlier, Miss Suzanny’s son-in-law, Gene, joked, “To hell with Chonky and his light, I got my own!”

Forty families live in Rocky Point, a small farming community located between two larger coastal towns in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. Although the power lines pass through these lands, there are no plans to connect the houses here to the grid. Up until blueEnergy arrived in late November, candles and kerosene lamps produced the only light found in the little wooden homes at night. This has proven to be a dangerous solution to lighting needs. Last year two children died in a house fire in a neighboring community caused by a candle burning in their room. Now, two homes in Rocky Point are graced with 30-watt solar panels which provide four hours of light daily. Starting next year, blueEnergy hopes to continue its joint efforts working with the local governments and the local Peace Corps volunteer to provide solar panel systems to rest of the families who need light.

Installing Solar Panels in Rocky Point


Each solar panel system installation takes between four to six hours, and everyone around contributes to the efforts. The women cook delicious local specialties, the men chop down the posts necessary to raise the solar panels above the house and help with the electrical installation and the children retrieve whatever tools the men require.

Our first beneficiary, Chonky, greets us enthusiastically from his porch. Today his grandchildren are not around, but he does not remain alone for long. Soon enough, five friends arrive to help with the installation. Hours of laughing and good-natured joking, usually concerning the universally masculine topics of women, wine, and song, follow our brief, informal introductions.

Chonky's house is even dark in the daytime

Chonky is thrilled to finally be able to cook and read at night after work. “I read my bible,” he says. “I read these (pointing to magazines) what have notes of what going on in the world.” He holds up a half dozen spiral-bound manuals, “I am a technic man…I have a lot of course that I take and reference back to the material.” At night, Chonky’s lights can be seen shining from the hammocks close to his house where we sleep. On, off. On, off. A fundamental service like electric light can serve to amaze those who acquire it for the first time.

Panel at Chonky's house
Shortly after dawn, Gene leads us to his mother-in-law’s house for the second installation. The approach to Ms. Suzanny’s house is a picture perfect walk though a coconut grove flanked by enormous piles of coconut husks. Orange and cacao trees, sugarcane, corn, yucca, and beans, scattered throughout the grove provide ample amounts of food for people and animals alike. In the back sits a dilapidated, three-room, wooden house, complete with a hammock swinging from the front porch. The abundant coconut husks do not only remain in the forest; many are pressed into the dirt around the house, sufficing as a walkway to endure the sodden, muddy earth. Pigs relish in these mucky conditions, and can be seen competing with the chickens for scraps. If you stick around long enough, horses and cows will come by, and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the skittish calf left orphaned by disease.

The second install takes place with relative ease, as the panel fixed on the top of the wooden post chopped down from the bush is tied into the charge controller and battery. Gene’s two young sons take a shy interest and soon warm up to us. They make great helpers, responding quickly to find tools or help hold materials. We explain the difference between positive and negative, how a battery works, AC vs. DC and what the lights on the charge controller mean. Gene is just as fascinated as the boys, and repeats our explanations in his own words. He wants to be the first person the community calls on if there is any technical trouble.

Gene and Casey from blueEnergy running wire


Rocky Point the Community

Throughout the day, the family imparts their own knowledge upon us as well. Gene shows us how to properly use a long stick to shake coconuts from the tops of the trees and open them with the machete. His boys demonstrate the best way to forge through the jungle, swinging low with each slice of the machete to kill any potentially lethal snakes before stepping on them. They also boast their skills with slingshots, quickly returning with a bird. Miss Suzanny offers her kitchen expertise, the manner which to grate coconut and make tea from “cowfoot” leaves, along with hours of local history. 

Gene's kids help Casey secure the solar panel

During her mouthwatering lunch, Miss Suzanny takes out a poster board covered in pictures of the community’s progress over the past year. She talks about the communal house that was built and the weekly educational sessions that are to the adults who never had an opportunity to get much education. Clearly this farming community lives much more intimately than those in many places who have access to instantaneous communication resources. “If we see someone needs help, we will be right there doing whatever we can,” Miss Suzanny affirms. “We work together here. If he needs ten pounds of corn to plant this season and I have it, I will give it to him. Next time I need something, he will give it to me too.”

Ms. Suzanny and Gene with Gene's kids

The people of Rocky Point do not have much, but they share with us all that they can. We bring them their future, and they remind us of our past. The 30-watt solar panel blueEnergy installs in each house cannot power a factory, but it is enough to power two 9-watt bulbs. Two light bulbs are enough to give Chonky a few more hours a night to study his continuing education manuals and Gene’s kids time to finish their homework before they go to bed. Two light bulbs are enough to give both families peace of mind, instead of worrying about an open candle flame burning inside their homes. For the first two families who received light in Rocky Point, two light bulbs are a blessing.

It is because of stories like the one above that blueEnergy remains committed to providing basic energy services to people in some of the hardest to serve regions in the Western Hemisphere.

We ask for your support to help us help many more Chonky’s and Ms. Suzanny’s. Every amount counts as our network of support grows and we find strength in numbers.


Join us to make sure that everyone gets a chance. Give the gift of light.

11/28/2011

Renovables Coordinates Carbon Credit Deal for Nicaragua

What is Renovables ?

By Lâl Marandin  -- Founded in June of 2010, the Nicaraguan Association for Renewable Energy and the Environment, known as Renovables is a nonprofit organization whose mission is "to organize and strengthen Nicaraguan actors to expand a fair and efficient use of renewable energy in both the public and private sectors in Nicaragua”. Renovables’ vision is to create impact through projects, national and international partnerships, the development of public policy, dissemination of good practices, scientific research, public awareness and formal education for a sustainable energy future. 

The ultimate goal of its 2015 Strategic plan is to promote the access, production, sustainability and of renewable energy in Nicaragua. Renovables proposes the following objectives in the short and medium term:

• Strengthen the working sector in renewable energy at the national level

• Position the organization at the national and international level

• Promote changes in Nicaraguan law and regulations to better incentivize renewable energy for domestic and corporate uses

• Create a project portfolio to involve all member organizations.

As of the fall of 2011, Renovables is comprised of more than 30 institutions that promote, support or implement clean energy project in Nicaragua, utilizing all possible sources of renewable energy: hydro, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

The association aims to contribute, in collaboration with the public and private sectors, to maximize the use of the country's renewable energy potential and to increase renewable energy’s contribution to the energy portolio, in alignment with the National Administration’s “National Energy Strategy”.

Renovables and carbon credits

In this context, the Renovables association began a process in 2011 of identifying alternatives to carbon markets where Nicaragua is eligible so that local developers of renewable energy could take advantage of opportunities for additional income through the sale of Certified Emission Reductions (CER), that are issued on regulated or voluntary markets aiming at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions or sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The mechanism has two main components: the creation of the credit through a certification program and the sale of the credit to a buyer on a credit market.

Renovables had been approached since its creation in 2010 by several actors of the carbon credit markets (Southpole, GIZ, HIVOS) but no deal was in sight.

The catalyzing role of blueEnergy

blueEnergy joined forces with two other Nicaraguan NGOs in 2009 to foster the creation and launch of Renovables, and was instrumental in its early growth. Being recognized for that action, blueEnergy was voted Secretary of the Board of Renovables at its inaugural assembly, an event that brought together more than 100 key people of the Renewable energy sector and over 50 institutions in June 2010. Taking this responsibility very seriously, blueEnergy appointed Lâl Marandin (blueEnergy co-founder and Managua Office Director) to support the growth of the young and promising association, and provide any needed support.

Forming a dynamic team with Renovables appointed Executive Director, Lizeth Zúniga (former country director of BUN-CA in Nicaragua), Lâl identified and negotiated a quick-win opportunity to utilize the Kyoto Protocol market through one specific clean development mechanism (CDM): the Program of Activities (PoA) Guacamaya, which was designed for small-scale hydroelectric projects.

This PoA is one of the two existing PoAs that have been developed for Nicaragua. The PoA structure is relatively new in the Kyoto Protocol proceedings, and is designed to group projects that use either several clean technologies in one given country, or the same technology in several countries. This new CDM structure was developed to allow smaller scale actors to take advantage of the complex Kyoto Protocol Market, through the sharing of registration and monitoring costs between the energy projects that join the Program.

How could Nicaragua take advantage of this opportunity? blueEnergy made this idea a reality in two ways:

1) by having established throughout the years a very complete database of actors and contacts, blueEnergy helped track down many current and potential project developers in the hydro sector, so that they could be presented with the program and decide to join.

2) by coordinating with several actors, and with the financial support of the ECNER project funded by the Common Fund for Governance in Nicaragua, blueEnergy made possible the organization of a workshop on “Carbon Credits for Nicaragua” under the leadership of Renovables and EcoRessources in Managua on August 3rd, 2011.

The event clearly highlighted for the public the general gaps and opportunities on the CER topic in Nicaragua, and created the conditions to present and explain the PoA Guacamaya’s specific requirements and benefits. It also helped identify other options for other types of power generation, through the Kyoto Protocol market or Carbon voluntary markets. More than 50 key actors were in attendance, including project owners and developers, actors from the Renewable Energy Sector in Nicaragua and government officials.
Left to right: Marlyng Buitrago, President of Renovables. Patricia Rosenthal, representative of
MABANAFT, Gianluca Merlo, EcoRessources; Christian Giles, Anaconda Carbon
This specific opportunity is seen by blueEnergy and Renovables as a first step towards the utilization of the largest quantity possible of CERs in Nicaragua, and blueEnergy is currently supporting Renovables in identifying other opportunities for other technologies.

Renovables’s strategic agreement with EcoRessources

As part of its contribution to the development of clean energy in Nicaragua, with the aim of exploring opportunities to enter the regulated carbon market under the Kyoto Protocol, Renovables signed a very important framework partnership agreement in July 2011 with the owners of the PoA, to allow Nicaragua to join the program. By doing so, it automatically allowed Nicaragua to benefit from the Kyoto mechanism for certification of emissions credits for the small-scale hydro sector for the next 28 years, when this door was closing for good: the Kyoto Protocol will indeed be terminated in December of 2012, with no clear vision of what comes next.

Also importantly, the agreement signed by Renovables with EcoRessources and the owners of the PoA includes a percentage of any CER transaction made for Nicaragua to be donated back to Renovables, supporting the financial sustainability of the Association.

More information of the Guacamaya PoA :

The Guacamaya PoA was originally developed for Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemenla by Anaconda Carbon (a firm based in Honduras that works with companies and organizations to achieve their corporate social responsibility and sustainability goals and acts as the coordinating body for the program); Mabanaft (a private group of German origin founded in 1947 who is the buyer of credits) and EcoRessources, a Canadian company with representation in Nicaragua, developing offset projects and carbon credit management for emerging markets of voluntary compliance.

The ultimate goal of this agreement is to foster the identification and promotion of hydroelectric projects under 15 MW in Nicaragua.

The eligibility criteria for the Guacamaya PoA are:

• Small-scale hydroelectric projects (less than 15 MW, can also be applied to new repowering projects total power less than 15 MW)

• Must operate run-of-the-river with no more than a daily control reservoir, if any

• Must comply with laws and regulations of Nicaragua

• Must have a Power Purchase Agreement with the national network (PPA Power Purchase Agreement)

The strategic importance of opening the Guacamaya PoA to Nicaragua lies in the possibility of selling credits into the European carbon market after the end of 2012, when the Kyoto Market will close. The European market is guaranteed to exist for the next 10 years.

This program will allow small-scale projects generating carbon credits to access the carbon market with zero upfront costs by the project owners. It also offers an attractive purchase agreement (ERPA) with Mabanaft (cash flow guaranteed and an opportunity to benefit if the carbon market is on the rise), simplified compliance process, and the possibility of exchanging information with similar actors in Central America.

Anaconda Carbon and Mabanaft are currently in talks with financial institutions to use the ERPA as collateral for bank loans. All parties involved have strength, experience, local presence and financial backing.

It is important to note that the Guacamaya PoA has a validity of 28 years for the certification of CER credits. So any project may now register itself over the next 28 years, at the time it is launched, and produce CER credits that it can then sell on voluntary markets and on the European market for carbon credits, which will be active for at least the next 10 years.

11/25/2011

A Passion for Clean Water in Bluefields: Alonso's Story

By Casey Callais -- It's been about four months since blueEnergy started working with families in barrio Santa Rosa in Bluefields. We already told you about Celia from Santa Rosa, now we would like to tell you about the head of another family who lives a block away.

Alonso Rodriguez and his family were some of the first beneficiaries of a biosand water filter and a baptist well in their neighborhood. They are very grateful; the water quality situation in their area is not a good one. "In this part of St Rosa, our wells dry up," said Alonso. "Thanks to blueEnergy we have solved our problem with water.”

The family and the water filter

The closest well that Alonso is referring to is owned by a neighbor but is used by the all of the surrounding houses. It is also at the end of a sidewalk where garbage is collected weekly for pickup. It is from this well that his family was drinking unfiltered water.

The well that Alonso was using before. Notice the garbage piled up in front.

He lives with his wife and two sons who were both born blind and with learning disabilities. She stays with the kids full time, he drives a taxi part time in the evenings. They share their house with another young family who also have two children. Water is abundant, but clean water is a valuable commodity. When asked about if his family had noticed a difference in the quality of water since their filter was installed back in June, he said they haven’t had stomach problems or skin breakouts due to the contaminated water. Because of this they feel safe and confident of the quality of their water.

Alonso and family with their filter

The neighbors and the Baptist well


Drilling the wells is a simple but time-consuming practice of lifting a boring pipe up and slamming it down into a water-filled hole, which shoots water and sediment through the end. After completion the wells are closed to prevent contaminants from entering the water supply from the top. They are also drilled at a considerably cheaper cost than the traditional open pit-style wells. Usually it takes about a week to drive it to the desired 70' - 80' depth. Though they are much narrower than traditional wells, they access the water table down to a much greater depth, allowing for a more sanitary water source away from contaminated ground water.

Neighbors from six houses contributed to boring the well in Alonso’s yard and will share it when they need water. Barbara Blandón lives one house over and has a small store that sells cold drinks. In the months when her well may be dry, she can rely on the Baptist well to make the frescoes (fruit juices) that she sells.

blueEnergy intern Andrew Peterson drilling the well with the locals

Alonso shows off the finished well

Alonso and the next step

Alonso's hard work during the building of the filter and well and his first-hand experience with the way blueEnergy executes projects on the community level has landed him a job working with blueEnergy's Water and Sanitation team.

According to Thibaut Demaegdt, head of the Water and Sanitation team, for future projects blueEnergy will have two groups drilling wells simultaneously. Because Alonso demonstrated a great work ethic during the drilling of the well at his house and was able to motivate the neighbors when the energy levels got low, he was the first choice as someone who could lead the second team.


Alonso on the left giving a thumbs up during a water team meeting

The future of the blueEnergy water team is a bright one, as is the future for the beneficiaries in Santa Rosa. And of course for Alonso and his family, the future couldn't be brighter.

11/16/2011

bE ecostoves: Improving Quality of Life

By Angela Cacciola -- On any given night, volunteers walking back to the blueEnergy house from their days’ work greet Yessenia Rodriguez who cooks and sells customary dishes from her front porch. Like many other women born and raised in Bluefields, Nicaragua, Yessenia falls into the traditional gender role of cook and mother. She supports her large family with the small amount of money she works hard to make. However, unlike many of her female counterparts, Yessenia now uses the ecostove she purchased from blueEnergy to do her cooking. “It is the best I’ve ever had,” Yessenia raves “It is very advantageous for people here, if they can have them. The stove is hot, but I can stand next to it, because the heat is contained.”
blueEnergy volunteer, Gabriella LaRocca,
explains the proper use of the ecostove to Yessenia

A 33-year-old single mom with five children ages three to eighteen, Yessenia provides for the eight people living in her house. Although she only purchased her stove in May of this year, she has been selling various dishes, including fried chicken, enchiladas, tacos, and tajadas (fried banana chips) for two years. Yessenia likes living in Bluefields, but she is trying to find work in other areas. “Life is difficult here,” she comments, and this fact is quickly apparent by the lack of economy and ensuing safety issues in the community.

The primary source of fuel in Bluefields and on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, charcoal is mainly used for heating stoves because it is cheap and readily available. However, the industry places a big strain on the local almendra trees. As immediate resources are depleted, people go further into the national forest reserve to cut down these ancient, towering giants. Once the trees are buried and burnt, they scrape out the charcoal and leave everything else behind. The charcoal sells at almost four dollars a sack.

Yessenia's old, inefficient stove. 
Like most new technology, successful adaptation of environmentally friendly ecostoves that would reduce the charcoal market must be economically favorable to its consumers, and Yessenia is no exception. Despite her situation, she makes the best of what she has. Fortunately, her ecostove saves her more than $13 a month, a significant amount of money in a region where salaries are highly subsidized by remittances from family members working abroad. Now when Yessenia cooks, she has to use half the amount of oil in the pan as she did before. Additionally, her new stove is "very, very economic because it doesn't use a lot of charcoal. Yessenia now buys just one sack of charcoal per month, as compared to the one sack per week she purchased when using her old stove. Even on such a small scale, blueEnergy's efforts work toward its mission of a more equitable and sustainable world.

Ecostoves were initially designed and manufactured by Proleña, a blueEnergy partner and NGO in Managua, Nicaragua. The charcoal-burning adaptation has been distributed by blueEnergy in Bluefields, Nicaragua. It lasts three to five years, significantly longer than its competition which last roughly six months. Its efficiency undoubtedly drastically improves the quality of womens’ lives and can reduce deforestation and carbon emissions. If you are interested in getting more involved and supporting the purchase of a cook stove so that blueEnergy can help many more Yessenia’s, please click HERE.



11/07/2011

Aman iman. (“Water is life, and life is water.”)

–Tamachek saying

By Angela Cacciola -- The application of this concept seems like barely an afterthought for those fortunate enough to live with the assurance of basic services. However, the African Tamachek people resemble those who inhabit the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. They value clean water as precious, but struggle with its daily acquisition because their country’s history is rife with corruption, political strife, and countless rebellions. 

Welcome to Bluefields, Nicaragua, where an ever-increasing population creates serious problems concerning the inadequate supply of clean drinking water. blueEnergy not only builds wells within Bluefields, it also installs biosand filters to purify water with the local people it services. Beneficiaries take a class on water hygiene and sanitation and then spend time in the blueEnergy workshop making their filter. blueEnergy finds participation in this educational and technical process emphasizes the value of the filter, and thus, improves the quality of care and longevity of the project.
Dump in Diecinueve de Julio
Last week, blueEnergy installed ten filters in the barrio Diecinueve de Julio (19th of July neighborhood) of Bluefields. Starting the day on the edge of this community’s somking dump, where children and adults roam barefoot scrounging for scrap metal and food, knocks a person into the reality of living in the second poorest country of the Western Hemisphere. Here is a bit about some of the beneficiaries:

Reina Isabelle Fernandez will no longer have to make the twenty-minute journey twice a day to the well for a five-gallon bucket of water. With the aid of her biosand filter, she decontaminates the water from the well just behind her house, for the first time certain its consumption will not breed sickness. While only four people live in her house, the newly filtered water also services the neighbors who buy the fresco (fruit juice) Reina and her husband sell from their home.
Reina and her husband with their fresco and new water filter
The range of poverty in this community varies. Reina owns her plot of land and is fortunate enough to have separate areas for sleeping and eating in her house. Just around the bend, six other beneficiaries live in a one-room house with barely enough space for a bed and small table. They don’t own their land; they are considered squatters. Three generations share the house. There are no windows, people and endless flies enter and exit through the only door, through which the smoking dump can be seen.
Carrying the filter to a one-room squatter house by the dump
Down the road in another beneficiary home, a single mom, Connie works all day for her four kids, selling women’s shoes in the street. As a grin spreads across her face, Connie explains how the filter is “very important… a blessing from God,” because now her family can drink purified water. “Sometimes we get sick because we drink contaminated water,” she says. Connie cannot afford to be sick because if she does not work, no one else provides for her family. Thus, while tending to the water filter is yet another chore Connie’s children will be assigned when Connie works, it is one they gladly welcome.

11/03/2011

blueEnergy Super Alum Fernando de Samaniego Steta Raises over $2000 on behalf of blueEnergy!

By Emily Castello -- Last month, blueEnergy super alum Fernando De Samaniego Steta ran a marathon and raised over $2,000 on behalf of blueEnergy! Fernando volunteered with blueEnergy for four months in 2009, working primarily on blueEnergy’s renewable energy initiatives on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Fernando fondly remembers this time, referring to it as an “amazing experience that I greatly enjoyed thanks to the blueEnergy team on the ground and the wonderful Nicaraguans from the Atlantic coast.”

Fernando’s passion for renewable energy continued long after his volunteer stint with blueEnergy. Currently, he works as an analyst at Suntech Power, the largest global manufacturer of PV modules, in primarily business development and project finance. He also assists the Southern European markets develop solutions unique for each market. When asked how he likes working in the solar industry, Fernando states: “It is a very interesting time to be working in the solar industry, since this year prices of PV modules have dropped dramatically and solar is becoming affordable for everyone. At the same time, it is a consolidation stage for the PV industry, where a weak demand and an over capacity scenario have pushed some companies into bankruptcy.”
Fernando working hard with blueEnergy in Set Net Point

Fernando decided to run the Berlin marathon and fundraise on behalf of blueEnergy because of his passion and belief in the mission and work of blueEnergy. After four months of intense training, Fernando completed the marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes, and 37 seconds! This was Fernando’s personal best time, which he credits to the weather (“sunny but not too hot”) and rousing support of the other 35,000 participants for helping him achieve his best. In addition to reaching his personal record, Fernando raised $2,241 for blueEnergy through an online fundraising campaign. This was the second time Fernando ran a marathon and fundraised on behalf of blueEnergy. In total, Fernando has raised close to $5,000 cumulatively for blueEnergy through his fundraising efforts. Fernando plans to run another marathon in 2012, with the hopes of pushing his running and fundraising limits further.
Fernando during the marathon
blueEnergy would like to thank Fernando for his continuous support! If you would like to learn more about how to set up your own fundraising initiative like Fernando, please contact Emily at Emily.Castello@blueenergygroup.org.

10/28/2011

Celia's family drinks clean water

By Casey Callais -- Celia and her family live in Santa Rosa neighborhood in Bluefields. Her husband works long hours as a taxi driver, her three kids are all in school and she works from home selling cooked beans.

Celia's house. Notice the contaminated well on the right.
Not having clean water is an inconvenience few people in developed countries have to face. For Celia's family, it has been a way of life. With no running water, they were having to haul buckets of water from a well in their backyard. When that became too contaminated to drink or even bathe with, they started using a communal well several blocks away which cost about $.50 per bucket. Unfortunately, the contamination levels in the communal well increase in the dry season as the water level decreases and eventually runs dry. Celia's family is an example of a typical Bluefield's household.

Celia washes her hands with well water stored in the green tub
The first part of blueEnergy's water program methodology is to give classes on sanitation and cleanliness. While sanitary conditions in a typical Bluefield's home are not ideal, a little soap can go a long way.


Thibaut helps Celia fill out the paperwork for the water filter

Celia worked with blueEnergy to build her own biosand water filter and drill a new Baptist well that is shared with several surrounding families.

Celia and her daughter showing off their water filter


Celia stand with her daughter in front of their new Baptist well
This year blueEnergy plans to help 200 households in Bluefields build and install their own filters. 30 of them will work to build shared Baptist wells. Check out our gallery to see more photos from the project!

10/24/2011

bE innovations: Cement Vibrator

By Casey Callais -- Here is bE water technician Jorge Perez showing us how blueEnergy innovations are helping to increase the structural integrity of the biosand filters.


Renovables Gets Formal Status

By Lâl Marandin -- Founded in June of 2010, the Nicaraguan Association for Renewable Energy and the Environment, known as “Renovables” is a nonprofit organization whose mission is "to organize and strengthen Nicaraguan actors to expand a fair and efficient use of renewable energy in both the public and private sectors in Nicaragua”. “Renovables” ’ vision is to create impact through projects, national and international partnerships, the development of public policy, dissemination of good practices, scientific research, public awareness and formal education for a sustainable energy future. "

The ultimate goal of its 2015 Strategic plan is to promote the access, production, sustainability and of renewable energy in Nicaragua. “Renovables” proposes the following objectives in the short and medium term:

• Strengthen the working sector in renewable energy at the national level

• Position the organization at the national and international level

• Promote changes in Nicaraguan law and regulations to better incentivize renewable energy for domestic and corporate uses

• Create a project portfolio to involve all member organizations.

As of the fall of 2011, “Renovables” is comprised of more than 30 institutions that promote, support or implement clean energy project in Nicaragua, utilizing all possible sources of renewable energy: hydro, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

The Association aims to contribute, in collaboration with the public and private sectors, to maximize the use of the country's renewable energy potential, and to increase renewable energy’s contribution to the energy portolio, in alignment with the National Administration’s “National Energy Strategy”.
The founders of "Renovables", June 17th, 2010

What the “Personería Jurídica” is and why it’s a big deal

Obtaining “Personería Jurídica” means filing and being awarded a legal status as a nonprofit in Nicaragua. It requires a majority vote by the National Assembly (Congress) and is a process that can take up to five years.

Three major factors made it very important for “Renovables” to obtain it as quickly as possible, but also made it complicated:

1) Nonprofits in Nicaragua have been under very strict surveillance since the start of the new Ortega Administration in January 2007. There has been increased controls and audits of many nonprofits, especially those receiving funding from international or multilateral aid agencies.

2) Adding to the tension, the energy sector is absolutely strategic for Nicaragua, a country that doesn’t currently own fossil fuels reserves and has the most expensive electricity in Central America. The government and its Ministry of Energy and Mines play a central role, and debates on energy prices and strategy are constant in the media.

3) Large private energy groups have gained a very strong importance in the country. Some of them had a tendency to shift the legal and political weight towards their specific interests. It was key to counter balance their influence and overcome any possible hindrance they could have created, preventing “Renovables” from obtaining the Personería Jurídica.

For these reasons, and many more, it was of paramount importance that “Renovables” be able to legalize its legal status in the country, giving it the ability to speak with a strong a clear voice for the sector it represents.

The catalyzing role of blueEnergy

blueEnergy joined forces with two other Nicaraguan NGOs in 2009 to foster the creation and launch of “Renovables”, and was instrumental in its early growth. Being recognized for that action, blueEnergy was voted Secretary of the Board of “Renovables” at its inaugural assembly, an event that brought together more than 100 key people of the Renewable energy sector and over 50 institutions in June 2010. Taking this responsibility very seriously, blueEnergy appointed Lâl Marandin (blueEnergy co-founder and Managua Office Director) to support the growth of the young and promising association, and provide any needed support.

With the financial support of the “ECNER” project, awarded in March 2010 to blueEnergy (and its partners ATDER-BL and AsoFenix) by the Common Fund for Democratic Governance in Nicaragua, blueEnergy assembled a legal team to achieve the legal status of Personería Jurídica for Renovables.

Since the launch of Renovables in June 2010, Lâl has worked to motivate and coordinate the association’s staff in order to advance the process. This has required constant problem solving and clear decision making to make sure the process did not get derailed. blueEnergy wishes to thank Roberto Sosa, Marlyng Buitrago and Lizeth Zúniga for their support to Lâl and their key role in making this happen for “Renovables”.   

“Renovables” is now an official Nicaraguan Nonprofit!

On September 2nd, 2011, the National Assembly of Nicaragua awarded the Personería Jurídica to “Renovables”. This success happened 12 months exactly after the original filing of the paperwork, which is a very impressive performance given the challenges encountered along the way.

As an example of the challenges, it was ruled at some point in the process by a legal counselor of the National Assembly that private institutions cannot be founders of a non-profit organization. This statement has no legal base in the current nonprofit law #147. The Supreme Council of the Private Enterprise (COSEP), representing the private sector in Nicaragua since 1972, offered its support to “Renovables” to counter the argument, with legal action if necessary. Fortunately “Renovables” was able to resolve the conflict outside of legal action.

“Renovables” will now have to comply with all the required nonprofit regulations in Nicaragua, which is all it has ever hoped for!
Copy of the statement of Personería Jurídica,
awarded by the National Assembly of Nicaragua,
September 2nd 2011

10/21/2011

bE innovations: Electric Sand Sifter

By Casey Callais -- blueEnergy innovations help make it easier for beneficiaries to build their own biosand water filters. bE water technician Jorge Perez explains:


10/19/2011

bE Supporter Josh Rogol Hosts a Successful Event on behalf of blueEnergy!

By Emily Castillo -- Last week, blueEnergy US staff Mathias Craig and Emily Castello headed to Boston for a night of conversation, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres. Josh Rogol, a new 2011 blueEnergy supporter, hosted an event on behalf of blueEnergy as a way to raise awareness and money for blueEnergy’s community development work on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Josh Rogol was first introduced to blueEnergy by his uncle, longtime blueEnergy supporter Michael Rogol and had the opportunity to visit our site in Bluefields, Nicaragua this past June.

Upon returning from his week-long stay in Bluefields, Josh was inspired to get more involved and wanted to introduce his network of friends to blueEnergy’s community development model on the Coast. The event served as a perfect environment to introduce blueEnergy to the young professional community of Boston! Josh opened the event with personal anecdotes from his June trip to Bluefields, sharing his personal connections and motivations for getting involved in blueEnergy. The floor was then turned over to Mathias who provided a succinct overview of blueEnergy’s major program areas and vision. The night continued with conversation and laughter, as a slide show of some of Josh’s photos from his trip played in the background. The night’s attendants were poised to learn more, asking a variety of questions from why the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua to what are your long-term plans for development.


With over 50 people in attendance, the night turned out to be a great success! New friendships were forged, new ideas were presented, and perhaps most importantly, a new group of Bostonian blueEnergy supporters emerged.

A special thank you to Josh Rogol for his enduring support and to everyone who came out to Clerys in support of blueEnergy!
Josh constructing a water filter during his June trip to Bluefields!