blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


Living Waters International Helps Train on Well Drilling Techniques

By Casey Callais -- After months of planning and preparation, Don Parker landed in Bluefields. Don is a small-scale water well drilling specialist that volunteers his time to projects sponsored by Living Water International. Don has made many trips to Latin America where he trains local teams on how to use well-drilling equipment, and he was just the person blueEnergy was looking to meet!

Access to clean water is a large concern for the City of Bluefields. With an estimated 50,000 people living in the municipality, there is a high demand for water. Unfortunately, many of the water sources are contaminated and new wells are prohibitivly expensive for the average resident. Thankfully, the City of Bluefields recently purchased a well-drilling machine capable of boring 200' into the soft topography of the region, which is deep enough to supply a consistent flow of water even in the dry season. However, the City of Bluefields did not have a trained staff member that could use and train others on the equipment. Enter Don Parker. . .

Don explaining the how-to to blueEnery and Bluefields workers

Eric Lopp, blueEnergy Director of International Programs, understood the situation and got the ball rolling. He coordinated Don Parker's visit, while Rickey Monroe, Head of the blueEnergy Water and Sanitation team, and Danilo Rivera, Vice Director of blueEnergy Projects and Programs, facilitated training logistics. Don provided a series of hands-on well drilling classes that benefitted both the blueEnergy staff and also Bluefields municipal workers, Enacal, the Nicaraguan water company and the Verbo school, the recipients of the new well.

Mixing the drilling fluid

The five days of drilling classes taught the workers not only how to operate and care for the machine, but also best practices and techniques for making the job easier. Don's experience showed as he made suggestions such as implementing easily welded custom tools to better handle pipes and an electric pump to clean up the well after drilling is complete.

Getting started with the operation

Given the large number of people in need of clean water in Bluefields, the municipality is going to give this new machine a good workout. It is estimated that about 20 wells can be drilled before parts begin wearing out and maintenance is required, but if each well supplies water to 20 families of 5 people each, well, you can imagine how valuable it is to learn how to operate this machine and what a great impact it will have on the community.

In addition to Don from Living Water International, blueEnergy would also like to thank Paul Hwang from Cornerstone Church in Toronto. Paul has provided years of support for the Verbo school in Bluefields and worked behind the scenes to coordinate this training. Cornerstone Church also provided the funding for the project, and it is money well spent.


Give the Gift of Light

Still not too late to give the gift of light to the people of Rocky Point!


Rama Cay Health Center Receives Solar-Powered Water Filtration System

By Casey Callais -- The drinking water in the tiny island of Rama Cay is dirty. Very dirty. And not in the sense that it can be cleaned by simply scooping out pollutants with a sieve. Much of what contaminates open well drinking water can not be seen by the naked eye; fecal coliforms cannot be scooped out. Neither can protozoa or the many other contaminates, which populate the 5 wells that the 1,000 residents of Rama Cay use for washing, bathing and drinking. Diarrhea is a serious problem (you can hear Maria, the nurse in Rama Cay explain why here) and the population most vulnerable to such contamination rely heavily on the well at the Rama Cay health clinic.

To tackle this problem, blueEnergy engineers devised a clever solution that weds the organization's experience with solar power and biosand water filtration to create, you guessed it, a solar-powered biosand water filter!

With funding from Renewable World, blueEnergy designed and installed a system that pumps water from the clinic's well to a holding tank that then drips into a biosand filter and from there into a holding tank. The system is controlled by a series of float valves that allow water to pass until the tank is full.

Here is an example of the system:

1. The solar panel on the roof of the health clinic powers the electric pump in the well.

2. The submersible pump is controlled by a float switch in the top tank. When the float is down and the sun is out, the pump sends well water into the top tank until the float comes up and cuts the pump off. 

3. There is enough well water in the top tank for several days of the clinic's water requirements. Gravity draws water from the top tank to the filter.

4. Water drips into into the biosand filter at a slow rate giving the good bacteria a consistent supply of bad bacteria to munch on. The water filters down through the barrel of sand and into the clean water storage tank.

5. Clean water is stored in the lower tank which is still high enough to supply water pressure to the clinic.

6. Patients in the health clinic can drink clean water and the staff can work in more sanitary conditions.

No longer is there worry at the health clinic over contaminated water and the sickness that it brings. This installation provides the solution and represents the strong bond between the indigenous community of Rama Cay, blueEnergy and Renewable World.


blueEnergy Executive Director, Mathias Craig accepted to the 2012-2013 Fulbright NEXUS Scholar Program

blueEnergy is pleased to announce that Co-Founder and Executive Director, Mathias Craig, has been selected for the Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (NEXUS) Scholar Program.

Mathias joins a network of junior scholars, professionals and mid-career applied researchers from the United States and other Western Hemisphere nations participating in the year-long program that includes multi-disciplinary, team-based research, a series of three seminar meetings and a Fulbright exchange experience. The Fulbright NEXUS Program provides a platform for scholars from across the region to engage in collaborative thinking, analysis, problem-solving and multi-disciplinary research in one of three inter-related topics: Science, Technology and Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainable Energy.

Mathias’ research will examine how the global target of universal energy access by 2030 established by the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative can be harmonized with local development priorities on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua to produce meaningful, desirable and sustainable results. He will examine local perspectives on energy access, the barriers to expanding energy access in this particularly challenging context and potential actions that could enable expansion of energy access while providing other desirable benefits. Mathias will also examine the interrelationships between communication networks, mobile payment systems and energy access as part of this study. Mathias will fundamentally seek to answer the question – can the global goal of universal energy access be implemented on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua in a way that supports local development priorities?  If so, how can this be done in the most cost-effective, low-carbon, economically stimulating manner?

Mathias’ research will take him to Bluefields, where he will spend three months working and researching. His wife, Lorelei and son, Damien, will join him. 
Mathias, Lorelei and Damien

For more information please check out the Fulbright NEXUS Scholar Blog.


Give the Gift of Light!

Rocky Point is a poor isolated creole farming community of sixty families situated between the villages of Kukra Hill and Pearl Lagoon on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Power lines follow a dirt road that cuts through the community on the way to Pearl Lagoon, but no electricity is available in Rocky Point. It is too expensive to build the local electricity infrastructure. Rocky Point families are left in the dark.

blueEnergy works to bring solar installations to families living in Rocky Point so that they may benefit from the possibilities associated with electricity. Each family contributes to the installation and attends trainings to learn how to operate their home system.

Mr. Pelmon and his family live in Rocky Point. They are devoted, very devoted, to their faith. They do not have much else to cling to aside from the small shack that houses the family. A cooking pot and a machete are their most valuable possessions. There is no running water, they have no bathroom and until recently, they lived completely in the dark.

"The work that you come and do here, we have been thankful for it.” Mr. Pelmon tells blueEnergy. "My wife bakes bread and she can work in the night here. If it wasn't for your goodness we wouldn't have that light work in the night."

In May of 2012 Mr. Pelmon and his family received a solar panel system from blueEnergy. They now live without the threat of open flames from candles and gas-burning lamps. Light has opened the opportunity for the family to earn extra income baking bread after the daily farm chores are complete. And most importantly for Mr. Pelmon, this light allows him to gather with his family in the early morning and eveningto sing from the old hand-me-down hymnbook.

Give the Gift of Light and help blueEnergy provide 10 more home solar installations to families in Rocky Point just like Mr. Pelmons' - that will otherwise live in the dark.

Double your impact! Your new or increased gift (over last year) will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $20,000 by the Edgerton Foundation.


Community Diagnostic: La Virgen

By Casey Callais -- The community of La Virgen sits tight against Lake Nicaragua. The breezy community of 3,000 is only about six miles from Rivas, the largest city in the area. But as blueEnergy discovered, they are still a long way from having basic services such as running water and electricity.
Rural farmworkers on their daily commute
Over a period of five days, blueEnergy worked with the community of La Virgen, performing diagnostics to determine community development needs. blueEnergy also worked with community members in assessing what types of projects could be useful in assisting the community in realizing and reaching their aspirations. Elvin Guzman, blueEnergy's Planning Director and Community Diagnostic Specialist, led the effort, which brought together over 300 families from both urban and rural community sectors.
Elvin explaining the diagnostic to a group of women and children
Through the diagnostic, blueEnergy was able to identify the weaknesses that have hindered community development and explore lines of opportunity like tourism. Men, women and children came together to draw maps of their neighborhoods, discuss economic conditions, availability of basic services, and what challenges local farmers and businesses face on a day to day basis. This information will not only serve blueEnergy in determining need, but a complete community development plan will also be constructed and given to the village leaders.
Community members explaining their ideas
The blueNews will maintain updates on this project as it develops. 


8 Day's Journey for Light

By Chris Sparadeo -- The other day there was a knock on the office door. In walked an old Rama Indian man, clutching a handheld lamp and a small solar panel. His knee-high rubber boots left a trail of hardened mud as entered the room. With a wizened smile he tipped his cowboy hat and sat down in a chair pressed against the back wall, quietly waiting with arms folded neatly on his lap. Jorge, an electrical engineer, returned the man’s greeting with a cockeyed smile and a corresponding head nod. After a few minutes of courteous preliminary dialogue, it was decided that neither party spoke the others language. Jorge, noticing that I was snooping in on the well-intentioned discourse, waved me over to make sense of the encounter. The man spoke Rama-Kriol, but his lack of teeth and somewhat droopy facial expressions made it difficult to extract his every word. Sistel was his name.

It turns out that, at the age of 72 (I would have calculated 85) Sistel had paddled his way down the Kukra River to Bluefields in a four-day canoe voyage from his small inland community of Sumu Kaat. He had received a solar powered “D-Light” lamp form blueEnergy four years ago and for some reason or another it stopped working. The way he talked about his lamp was strangely similar to the way a person might talk about a sick pet. He lowered his voice, shaking his head side to side while gently stroking the lamp as he explained to me that he missed how his lamp used to work. After running a quick diagnostic on the light we found out that an internal wire failure had caused the solar panel to “humbug up." A quick fix. We tested the newly mended light and when he turned it on, Sistel’s eyes nearly beamed brighter than the blinding LED bulb. We took his picture (which we gave him), thanked him for his dedicated travels, shook hands and sent him on his way. He walked out of the office all but skipping.

It’s people like Sistel who remind me how important energy is in our lives. To many people in the first world, Sistel’s light is just a commodity brought along for camping trips, often forgotten at home. For Sistel, it is something worth eight days of paddling up and down a river. It is something that opens a world of opportunities for life after the sun sets and before it rises again. On the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, it is indeed the small things that matter most.

Sistel Saloman, Rama Indian from Sumu Kaat village deep in the Kukra river


OXFAM Training: Disaster Mitigation

By Casey Callais -- What would you do if a major earthquake struck your area? What kind of preparedness checklist would you follow in case of a pending disaster like a hurricane? Imagine yourself in that kind of situation but faced with the compounded difficulties of working and living in rural Nicaragua, where there is no store to buy batteries or bottled water, no food handouts from relief agencies, and the leaf roof that once covered your home has blown away, and you are left with nothing.

Two blueEnergy staff recently attended a disaster-preparedness workshop held by OXFAM in Managua. "We are not ready," said Jean-Baptist from the Managua office. "It would take double our labor levels to prepare ourselves adequately."
JB and Rickey from blueEnergy work with OXFAM

This is a difficult realization to accept but useful to address, and thanks to OXFAM,  blueEnergy now has a much better idea of the challenges that the organization could face if a disaster strikes. The workshop focused in large part on disaster preparedness in regards to water sanitation and hygiene. The Coordinator for the blueEnergy Water and Sanitation Team, Rickey Monroe, took note of how to best adapt blueEnergy's water and sanitation program to the challenges and needs of a possible disaster.

More than likely blueEnergy would have to put all current projects on hold and shift resources to organizing and training communities in the techniques taught in the workshop. blueEnergy would also help facilitate logistics for other relief organizations arriving into the area. blueEnergy has expansive local knowledge of the area, including location of fresh water sources (wells and their depths, families that have them, sanitary conditions, etc), and we could assist first responders and other aid groups in their work to secure one of the most important aspects of survival: clean drinking water.
The situation "Before | During | After" a disaster
Our fingers are crossed that we never have to pull these plans out and execute them, but we are now more confident in our ability to step in and assist should the need arise.


Our Land, Our Future

For anyone interested in learning about the environmental and cultural struggles of people on the coast, check out both of these videos.

The first one is an animation of the proposed deep water port in Monkey Point. The second is a link to a short documentary about the impact that project would have as told by local residents and activists for the region.



blueEnergy Celebrates the Planet

On Sunday, September 23rd, volunteers in blueEnergy France took part on Cesarts festival in Nucourt in the regional park of Vexin to celebrate the planet.

By Benjamin Loiseau – The Cesarts festival is an edutainment event organized to inspire local youth. This year's topics were energy, eco-mobility and protection of water and oceans. This was a godsend opportunity to show our expertise in wind energy and introduce our actions to a broader audience. About 1,500 people, most of them families, were in attendance.

The programs offered by the festival, such as face painting, feather-pinwheel making, a petting zoo, and concert greatly appealed to children. blueEnergy took its place in the festival in the "energy village" which consisted of other exhibitors in the fields of energy efficiency, hydro and solar energy. blueEnergy distinguished itself by emphasizing wind energy.

The blueEnergy team challenged the kids to attempt mounting a lego-style wind turbine by themselves, a real headache for some and a revelation for others. One little boy had succeeded in completing three models before heading home.
Kids learn how to build small turbines

In addition, a wind turbine made during a recent blueEnergy workshop was used as an exhibition model to show how it operates - all the way down to the finest of details. The opportunity to work with a captured audience also allowed us to introduce blueEnergy's energy access and clean water initiatives in Nicaragua to children and their parents. A small stand decorated with the Nicaraguan flag was displayed with wooden sculptures sculpted in Bluefields.

To conclude, this festival was not just a great opportunity to meet a young audience awareness on energy, but also interact with families and explain blueEnergy's work to the wider community.
blueEnergy team shows off a Piggott turbine

I would like to thank Marie-Claude Scherrer, Michèle Grégoire, Emilie Etienne, Pierre Santraud and Caspar Priesmann for all the help they provided during the festival and getting up at dawn on a Sunday morning to make this event possible.
blueEnergy France team!


5 Questions with Local Interns, Violeta and Jader

By Casey Callais -- I recently sat down and interviewed two local Bluefields interns who have been working with blueEnergy for several months. Violeta Quintana is in her last year of her ecology and natural resources studies at the BICU and is working with blueEnergy's water and sanitation team. Jader Peralta is finishing his last year studying accounting and finance at the BICU and has been working for four months in the blueEnergy accounting office (all questions and answers have been translated from Spanish).
Q&A with  
Violeta and Jader


How would you describe a normal day working with blueEnergy?
A normal day of work with bE is a day full of new challenges and new experiences. 

Work with blueEnergy is very nice. When you arrive to the office you punch your card, greet your coworkers and share a quick joke that makes everyone laugh. When we start working, we ask for information from our coworkers that will help us complete our daily functions and if there is any problem in the management of the activities, help is asked from our superiors. We try to efficiently complete everything that is within our reach. 

What have you learned during you time with blueEnergy?
I learned to develop my abilities to work with teams and also work on the projects with empathy, effort and sacrifice. 

During my time with blueEnergy, I have gained much knowledge in accounting since it is an area where I develop well and I have liked it. I have met a lot of people and learned to identify the problems that can challenge an organization. To erradicate those problems takes big solutions. 

What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome working with blueEnergy?
One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome was the combination of my university classes and work with blueEnergy, but at the same time it was something I could overcome daily and it is satisfying. 

One of my challenges has been to keep updated all of the information that is within my reach. In accounting there are always problems with complying with the internal controls and it is necessary to maintain daily the finance and administrative information so that the bE directors can make decisions based on accurate finance information. 

What are some of the highlights of your time with blueEnergy?
One of the biggest highlights with my experience with bE is that I can be part of and collaborate with the Water and Sanitation Program, learn day to day about all the equipment and above all this experience has helped me very much in my career path and personal development. 

I had been working with the workshop with updating the checking in and out of materials. It is a big and delicate process and for me it's a challenge to efficiently achieve. It is part of my training and there isn't a better way to achieve what I like and want and this is what I like. 

How has your experience with blueEnergy helped prepare you for your future?
The experience with bE forms an important part of my professional development; it has been a great opportunity that will open the way to new experiences, challenges and opportunities.

Very important. While I could help blueEnergy in the area of controls, I strengthened my knowledge and have been involved in the working world. 

Many thanks and it was a pleasure to answer your questions. 


University of Michigan's Mtrek Group Works Firsthand with blueEnergy

By Casey Callais -- A University of Michigan M-Trek trip recently visited blueEnergy for four days to get a taste of what working with blueEnergy is like. M-Trek is a program that brings small groups of MBA students together to bond before they begin their classes.

The trip was organized in part by Lizzie Reisman, former blueEnergy Development Director and current Ross MBA student.  Lizzie convinced a handful of fellow adventurous students to visit Bluefields, Nicaragua for their bonding trip experience.

The M-Trek group spent their time building water filters, conducted interviews with local families to determine energy access needs and distributed solar-powered lamps to the families for testing. One of the locations for lamp distribution was Rama Cay. According to Eric Lopp, blueEnergy Program Coordinator and organizer of the Rama Cay visit:

"After the wet 35-minute trip by dory (a small boat carved out of a log) blueEnergy and the M-Trek group received a gracious welcome at the Moravian Church where over 100 natives dressed in their customary white greeted us. A leader from Rama Cay gave us a short tour of the island explaining their customs and showed us a number of the solar energy installed by blueEnergy."

Click on the video below to see what the group had to say about their time with blueEnergy.

 blueEnergy extends a special thanks to Lizzie for her work in putting together such a great trip!


blueEnergy to build 450 more water filters for Bluefields

By Casey Callais -- blueEnergy is excited to announce a new project, which has been approved and will push the limits of blueEnergy's Water and Sanitation team, a challenge we are looking forward to! The project is financed by USAID and FHI 360 and is based around water filtration and local education.

In the next ten months blueEnergy will be building and installing 450 biosand water filters in Bluefields, but this is just the start. The project also includes trainings for teachers, students and local organizations in solid waste management, a joint venture with the municipality to bring waste management awareness to a broader population and a reduce, reuse and recycle campaign.

USAID, blueEnergy and FHI 360 working together
We hope that this project will usher in a greater understanding of clean water, hygiene and waste management which are concerns for everyone on the coast. 

Granting bE the implementation of the project,
"For the right to clean water and healthy environment"


From Berkeley to Bluefields and Back: Cal Energy Corps Student Symposium

By Kate Graham --blueEnergy is known for going to the edge, working where others won’t to provide energy access, clean water and sanitation solutions to those living along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. But, who are these individuals choosing to cross borders and spend their time working on the periphery, navigating an area lacking roads, modern equipment, tools, and power? Many are participants in blueEnergy’s Global Leadership Program, a program geared to provide the next generation with the opportunity to witness and respond to the needs of the most isolated poor.
bE co-founder Mathias Craig speaking at the symposium

This past summer three Cal Energy Corp students, Casey Finnerty, Mauricio Castillo and Jonathan Lee traveled to Nicaragua to participate in blueEnergy’s Global Leadership Program. The Cal Energy Corps is an undergraduate internship program created to engage the best and brightest students from UC Berkeley in the design, development, and delivery of sustainable energy and climate solutions across the world. Through Cal Energy Corps student research efforts, blueEnergy is able to test and pilot new solutions that have the potential to become services providing great value to blueEnergy’s beneficiaries.

Superstars! Casey, Mauricio, Jonathan

Casey, Mauricio, and Jonathan spent 9 weeks with blueEnergy (details from their time in the field is documented here and here) and arriving back at Berkeley were given the opportunity to present projects and blueEnergy experiences at the Cal Energy Corps Symposium. As they stood beside posters highlighting their work, each student spoke about the challenges associated with project implementation in rural coastal communities and the best practices that emerged after weeks of researching and testing.
Well rounded audience

The Symposium continued with a welcome by Dr. Graham Fleming, Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Research. Dr. Fleming mentioned blueEnergy as a key Cal Energy Corps partner committed to providing meaningful experiences for students. Dr. Arun Majumdar, former professor of materials science and engineering at Berkeley and expert in transformational energy research and development, spoke to the audience in a key-note address about sustainable energy access as a human rights issue and encouraged Cal Energy Corps students to continue a path focused on global solutions.
Jonathan Lee: “Improving Longevity of Small Off- Grid Solar Photovoltaic Installations"

The symposium ended with a panel discussion, which included Mathias Craig, blueEnergy Founder and Executive Director. Mathias mentioned his summer visit to Nicaragua, where he witnessed Casey, Mauricio, and Jonathan working on the beginning stages of their projects – identifying beneficiaries, creating schematics, strategizing with blueEnergy technicians. Mathias also noted how well the students integrated into the culture and community of Bluefields. He praised Cal Energy Corps and called on Dr. Fleming to “send more students to Bluefields.”
"Send more students to Bluefields!"

blueEnergy is thankful for the ongoing relationship with Cal Energy Corps and appreciates following and supporting the progression and growth in projects and students from Berkeley to Bluefields and back. blueEnergy believes that through facilitating opportunities at the edge, in places far off the radar, stronger, more capable leaders, like Casey, Mauricio, and Jonathan will emerge, with the capacity and drive to create a more equitable, sustainable world.
(L to R) Tiff Dressen (New Initiatives Manger: Vice Chancellor for Research),
Casey Finnerty, Mauricio Castillo, Jonathan Lee, Mathias Craig, Kate Graham

For more information about blueEnergy’s Global Leadership Program and opportunities to work with blueEnergy in Bluefields, Nicaragua, please e-mail US Development Officer, Kate Graham at:

Check out our Picasa album for more photos!

Cal Energy Corps interns field-test smart solutions

From the UC Berkeley News Center:
Recently returned from summer sojourns, 32 UC Berkeley undergraduates shared experiences and adventures interning on myriad sustainability projects around the world during the second annual Cal Energy Corps symposium at the David Brower Center Thursday.

Launched in 2011, the Cal Energy Corps provides undergraduates with practical research and experiential-learning opportunities through internships with partner organizations across the academic, corporate and nonprofit sectors. Modeled on the U.S. Peace Corps, the program aims to engage Berkeley students tackling alternative energy, climate change and sustainability issues around the world.

Mauricio Castillo, a senior majoring in conservation and resource studies, interned in Nicaragua with blueEnergy, a sustainable-development nonprofit co-founded in 2003 by Berkeley alumnus Mathias Craig. “Working so closely with the blueEnergy team, I gained a real insight into rewards of development work and the challenges of running an NGO,” said Castillo, whose family comes from Nicaragua. Read the whole article at UC Berkeley News Center
Maurico Castillo
Mauricio Castillo was on hand to talk about his internship with
blueEnergy in Nicaragua. (Roibín Ó hÉochaidh photo)


Organization Spotlight at

A look at who is fighting poverty on blueEnergy, that's who!

Earlier this week, two conferences — the Mashable Social Good Summit and the Clinton Global Initiative — took place here in New York, discussing how we can all come together to address pressing global problems like poverty.
Each day at Idealist, we see people working to address poverty as well; if you perform a search for the keyword “poverty” on Idealist, you’ll find more than 18,000 organizations and opportunities tackling this issue. In recognition of all the organizations fighting poverty across the world, we’ve decided to highlight a few nonprofits that caught our eye here at Idealist.
blueEnergy in San Francisco, CA


Turbine in action (Photo Credit: blueEnergy)

WE CARE Solar Suitcase Shining Brightly in Rural Health Clinic

By Casey Callais -- The health clinic in Rama Cay is in a dire state with a rusted leaky roof, gates that don't close and access to only eight hours of electricity each day provided by a diesel generator. According to the nurse in charge of the three-room clinic, Maria McCrea the clinic receives no help from MINSA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Health) and patients are required to bring their own candles if they have to stay overnight. blueEnergy teamed up with WE CARE Solar to help alleviate a large problem at the clinic, the problem with light. 

WE CARE Solar designs portable, cost effective solar suitcases that power critical lighting, mobile communication devices, and medical devices in low resource areas without reliable electricity. By equipping off-grid medical clinics with solar power for medical and surgical lighting, WE CARE solar facilitates timely and appropriate emergency care, which greatly reduces maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. 

The Solar Suitcase is a complete 12-volt lighting package with battery, charge controller, waterproof LED lights and cellphone charging adapters that are neatly set in a portable plastic box. Usage habits are monitored monthly and the information will be sent to WE CARE Solar to help improve future versions of the Solar Suitcase.

blueEnergy supplied the solar panel and connected the device in the health clinic with the help of two French interns, Antoine and Claire. The install was led by blueEnergy staff member, Chris Sparadeo and members of the community pitched in to help make sure the install went smoothly.

There is much work still to be done in the clinic in Rama Cay, but now that they have the Solar Suitcase, they will not be working in the dark.


Nobel Laureate, Dr. Dan Kammen visits blueEnergy

By Casey Callais -- For Dr. Dan Kammen, trekking through isolated regions of Nicaragua on horseback to visit renewable energy systems at an agro-forestry reserve is all part of the job. 

Dr. Kammen is Professor in the Energy and Resources Group Energy and Resources Group (ERG), Professor of Public Policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy and is Professor of Nuclear Engineering in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the founding Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL). Dr. Kammen advises the US and Swedish Agencies for International Development, the World Bank, and the Presidents Committee on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Long time supporter of blueEnergy, Dr. Kammen visited the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in August to see blueEnergy's work firsthand and to hold a presentation about climate change. Dr. Kammen arrived as a special guest of the US Embassy in Nicaragua.

The following photo essay chronicles his visit:

Dr. Kammen arrived accompanied by Alison Griffith, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. Ms. Griffith introduced Dr. Kammen during a media Q&A session at the BICU University in Bluefields. Also in attendance was Guillaume Craig, blueEnergy Country Director.

Dr. Kammen gave an enlightening presentation on climate change and the developing world. He described the current statistics of the melting of arctic ice, related studies being conducted on an island in the South Pacific and work he has performed in Malaysia. Dr. Kammen also introduced the audience to an effort by scientists trying to put local faces on climate change called the Climate Hot Map. He also had encouraging things to say about Nicaragua and its potential to lead the rest of Central America in renewable energy investment. Climatescope is a report by the International Development Bank that shows Nicaragua ranking second of 26 countries in the ability to attract capital for low-carbon energy sources while building a greener economy.

In the evening of the first day, Dr. Kammen was presented with an honorary Bluefields citizenship by Mayor, Dr. Bacon.

A lengthy visit of the blueEnergy shop was on the agenda for the second day. The heads of each of blueEnergy program areas took turns explaining their departments and current program initiatives. Jorge and Juan Carlos (above) demonstrated the force of the electrical current from the alternator of a small scale wind turbine.

The next day, Dr. Kammen and John Kill, Economic Officer from the US Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua joined blueEnergy staff, Guillaume Craig, Gilles Charlier, Casey Callais and Pearl Downs on visits to a number of blueEnergy's community installations.

A women's farming cooperative in Rocky Point, was the first stop. Pearl and Gilles took the opportunity to explain a new energy project that will have blueEnergy working with the farming cooperative later this year.

The group then traveled to the Kahka Creek reserve to visit a blueEnergy's solar installation.

At the Kahka Creek reserve, the blueEnergy team, reserve staff, Dr. Kammen and John Kill pose with the trees that they helped reforest as part of the reserve's Every Visitor Plants a Tree program.

blueEnergy and Kahka Creek staff along with Dr. Kammen and John Kill in the doorway of the battery bank that stores the energy from the install done in January, in part thanks to Renewable World, Trojan Battery Company and BP Solar.

Dr. Kammen's visit was a highlight for blueEnergy, as it gave teams the opportunity to showcase installations and introduce community members who are directly impacted by blueEnergy's work to a major actor in the fight against climate change. Through the conference, dinner discussions and site visits, the idea that climate change is real and needs addressing - especially in communities along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua - is one that blueEnergy will continue to be a part of and hopes will spark change.

Also, make sure to check out the US Embassy's take on the event: Energy Expert Inspires New Thought on Sustainable Energy.


Solar installation lights up the school in Rama Cay

By Chris Sparadeo -- More than any other populace in Nicaragua, the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast suffer from low levels of education and pedagogy. The need to provide indigenous youth with a local, quality education is evident and for the past three years the Belgian-based Jan Amos Comenius Foundation (FJAC) has been supporting related initiatives in the region. FJAC has been working in the public schools of Nueva Guinea to raise local capacity and educational standards with regards to the environment. Recently a sistership has been forged between the communities of Nueva Guinea and Rama Cay in aspirations of creating a cross-cultural exchange to raise levels of pedagogy while simultaneously ameliorating prejudice and hostility between Mestizo and indigenous youth in the region. With an emphasis on environmental consciousness, the unification employs methodologies derived from María Montessori and Jan Amos Comenius. The project incorporates 20 educators from both communities and is anticipated to benefit over 400 students.

Rama Cay is located 15 km to the southeast in the Bluefields bay and is accessed by small, motorized watercraft and canoe. The island has historically been populated by families of the Rama ethnicity and apart from the handful of Creole residents, this holds true today. As an anthropologic aside, the two islands (now fused together by oyster shells and organic matter) were awarded to the Rama by the Miskito in recognition for their assistance in fighting a rival indigenous tribe in the 17th century.

Although currently detached from the national electrical grid, the island community uses a diesel plant that provides electricity to a majority of the households. Unfortunately, the local school is not connected to this grid, and deprived of light and the use sophisticated teaching aids, the ability to provide quality education proves difficult.

To overcome this difficulty in educational and infrastructural gaps between the two sister schools, FJAC constructed a media lab adjoining the school in Rama Cay and subcontracted blueEnergy to size and install a solar photovoltaic system to meet the lab's energy demands. Using distributed generation software, blueEnergy technicians were able to design a cost effective array that covers 99.5% of the equipment’s electrical demand. The two 325-Ah Trojan batteries used to store the system's energy were donated by blueEnergy's friends at Trojan Battery Company. The 540-watt solar system mounted to the schools roof supplies energy to the four electrical outlets and seven high-efficiency lights installed in the media lab, library and classroom of the school. Thanks to efforts from FJAC, the Rama Cay media lab has been fully equipped with a Mini Mac computer, two digital cameras, wireless Internet, printer and projector.

One panel installed, the other awaiting installation

Tying in the control panel in Rama Cay

Now fully armed with valuable educational tools, the school of Rama Cay is ready to partake in the cross-cultural exchange of educators and kick its level of education up a notch (or three!). blueEnergy is thankful for the opportunity to lend its technical support for a noble cause and gives its praises to Gerd and Elba from FJAC.

blueEnergy and Rama Cay teachers and students in front of a job well done!