blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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