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blueEnergy adds refrigeration capacity in Monkey Point

By Caroline Dehais - blueEnergy recently made a trip to Monkey Point for two key installations: the second communal freezer donated by HIVOS and the special refrigerator for vaccines donated by Renewable World. Both of the systems are powered by autonomous solar arrays with batteries donated by Trojan.

Fridge for the Health Clinic
Fridge for the health clinic in Monkey Point
The blueEnergy team departed Bluefields the morning of the 21st and thankfully the sea was quiet! The team was composed of Cindy from the social team, Ronald, Guthry, Vincent and Caroline from the technical team, and Franklin Sanchez from the MINSA, the national ministry of health.

The first task was the installation of the health center’s refrigerator, which meant attaching the solar panel to the old and corroded roof, passing the cables inside the roof, making the connections to the control panel and batteries and making all the electrical connections for the lights of the health center. The next morning we turned on the fridge and by the afternoon the temperature had dropped to the required temperature for vaccine storage.

 “When they came in December asking me if a freezer for the health center would be useful, I said yes,” Carla, the charge nurse, said. “But I thought it would never come because nothing comes to my health center. And then two weeks ago they tell me the fridge would be installed soon, I thought I was dreaming, I’m so happy to have that vaccine fridge for my community!”

Freezer for the community

Carla's house with panels installed in front
The freezer donated by HiVOS is the second installed in Monkey Point. After studying how the first freezer, a common model found in department stores, performed over nearly a year, it was decided the second freezer should be an ultra-high efficiency DC model. The system has two 135w solar panels charging four 12v 105ah Trojan maintenance-free batteries, allowing for five days autonomous use. 

The freezer now belongs to the energy commission and is being rented to Carla for about $1/day (energy commission proceeds go to maintenance of the electrical systems). Carla had submitted a business plan to blueEnergy which consisted of using the freezer to sell meat, fish and other goods. It is now located in her house which is very close to the communal house and easily accessible. 

Return to Bluefields proves difficult 

The return on Thursday afternoon was a complete adventure, although it began without any trouble. The sea was not particularly rough, but the waves became much more turbulent as we arrived at the critical point called la barra where the sea meets they bay. The tide heading out from the bay meets the swells coming in from the sea, creating big chop.

Allen steering the panga being towed in the bay
As we entered the bullseye of la barra and the waves became worrisome, the motor lost power and died. Without any forward direction, it didn't take long for the waves to turn the panga broadside and begin to break in the boat. The passengers quickly sprang into action to empty the panga anyway we could using water jugs, pots and even flip-flops. Guthry, one of the bE staff, was in the bow with the paddle trying to keep the panga facing the oncoming waves as Allen, the panga driver, struggled to start the motor. It seemed we had miscalculated the amount of gas needed; the tanks were nearly empty. Allen consolidated every drop we had which was enough to start the motor, and we made it to the calm safety of the bay.

 It was not enough to make it home, however, and about 1 km before arriving to Bluefields’s wharf, the gas was finished and we were left stranded once again. Luckily we hitched a tow to the shore from a little dory with a 2hp engine where Casey met us with a gallon of gas.

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