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blueEnergy installs 2000 watts of solar in Kahka Creek reserve

By Casey Callais and Angela Cacciola -- From the watch tower a mere hundred yards from the Kahka Creek eco-lodge guards can view an area some visitors call the “Garden of Eden,” 600 hectares of primary and secondary rainforest reserve. Any signs of fire or need for evacuation must be quickly evaluated; transportation to Bluefields and its limited medical resources requires a 40-minute walk or horse ride, and then three grueling hours in a panga down the river and across the wave-laden lagoon.

Carrying the batteries to the installation site
While only eight people live on the Kahka Creek reserve permanently, its ecolodge provides shelter for students and tourists from FADCANIC and abroad. Earlier this year, technicians from blueEnergy made the journey to the reserve and installed a 2000 W solar mini-grid. Funded by donations from Renewable World and comprised of six solar panels, one 4kW inverter, four charge controllers and a bank of 28 batteries, the system provides energy to the reserve’s ecolodge, school, workshop and guard house.
Placing solar panels on the roof
Previously, all four of these buildings had small, independent renewable energy systems, none of which provided enough electricity. Now, with a mini-grid and backup diesel generator, the hybrid sytstem can produce power seamlessly, regardless of poor sunshine.  With such power, the lodge's coference area and offices are able to show presentations and run computers. The school, which hosts workshops on sustainable farm management and classes for at-risk youth from the surrounding communities, can better serve the communities when it doubles as a health center to support the medical brigade that visits twice a year. Instead of always using diesel in the workshop, renewable energy can run all tools with motors up to 1hp. Lastly, the guard house where four rangers stay, has clean light at night so the guards don’t have to depend on candles and oil lamps.
Ronald (foreground) and Gilles (behind) securing solar panels
According to blueEnergy’s social team member, Cindy Bennet, those who come to Kahka Creek “look how to preserve the existing species and try to raise awareness of the local members that show them different management and how you can maintain and take care of the forest.” They also aid in reforestation efforts, as each visitor plants a fruit tree, which in the future will give the land’s inhabitants a source of food and income.     
Juan Carlos installing a junction box in the workshop
The indigenous community, Tasbapouni, owns the reserve's land, but has leased it to FADCANIC, a coastal development organization, for 50 years in hopes that they will teach people how to maintain and care for it. Susan Thienhaus, who has worked in Nicaragua for over 30 years, runs the reserve and its sustainable agroforestry program. She agrees that, “The relationship between blueEnergy and FADCANIC is an important one. blueEnergy offers the energy, the water, the technology. FADCANIC offers the education, the agriculture.” Both organizations aim to preserve the local way of life by respecting preexisting traditions - an approach necessary for attempting successful development work in marginalized communities on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast.
Gilles showing off the control panel
blueEnergy would like to offer a big thanks to Renewable World and FADCANIC for their financial and logistical support. Through combined efforts, the reserve in Kahka Creek is better suited to meet the needs of visitors and people living in the surrounding communities because it now has sufficient light.

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