blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


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.”


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.”


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.


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.