blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


blueEnergy Brings Bluefields to Liomer, France

By Emilie Etienne -- On Thursday 14 of June, Benoit Desesquelles, who recently spent two and a half years in Bluefields, Nicaragua, went to the small village of Liomer, in the North of France. Accompanied by blueEnergy France Development Director Emilie Etienne, they had several meetings with village leaders about possible project collaboration between Liomer and blueEnergy.

This village, despite having only 400 inhabitants, is very dynamic, sporting a cyber cafe, an elementary school and several factories where some of the famous bottles of luxurious French perfumes are produced.

The village is led by Colette Michaux, the energetic mayor. Together with the Water Agency of the region (Agence de l’Eau Artois Picardie) she offered to fund one of blueEnergy’s water projects. The objective is to build 25 wells, 75 water filters and 20 latrines to provide 75 families of Bluefields with clean water and sanitation.

The Water Agency of Artois Picardie funds projects in several countries, but this will be the first time that they will take part in a project in Latin America. Concerning the village of Liomer, they have had an educational project in Mali and are interested in expanding to work with other regions of the world.

Benoit and Emilie met with Mrs Michaux and Arnaud Courtecuisse, head of the International Department of the Water Agency. Both Mr. Courtecuisse and Ms. Michaux are considering taking part in the Seminary of French decentralized cooperation, to be held in Esteli, Nicaragua, in November. blueEnergy is taking an active part in the organization of this event, coordinated by the French Ambassy of Nicaragua.

Benoit and Emilie meeting with Colette Michaux, mayor of Liomer,
and Arnaud Courtecuisse, head of the International Department
of Artois Picardie's Water Agency

During the afternoon, Benoit and Emilie introduced more than 20 children of Liomer’s school to the challenges facing Nicaragua in regards to lack of clean water and energy access. The difficult part for the nine-year-old children was correctly spelling Nicaragua - it is a tough one and may show up on their next spelling test! The presentation aimed to grow the children's awareness of the world’s inequalities: even if they are lucky enough to have proper sanitation installation, easy access to clean water and energy, it is not the case for all the children in the world.

Emilie explains how we can create renewable energy with wind and sun

The children were also introduced to the living conditions of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and had many questions and remarks. For many of them, it was the first time seeing houses on stilts or latrines built over rivers. It was hard for the children to imagine families drinking water from contaminated wells and having no way to properly dispose of or treat human waste. They also learned that nearly all transport along the coast is by boat; they were curious about blueEnergy biodigesters and the function of wind turbines. One aspect of life in Bluefields that is quite similar to that of the children is visits to the markets!

Benoit explains Nicaragua's geography while Helene Michel,
teacher of the class, writes key work on the whiteboard

The children's teacher, Hélène Michel, enjoyed the presentation: “ was full of information for the students. We will continue to work on energy and water savings so that this presentation has an impact on Liomer children's lives.” Another way to foster intercultural exchanges between France and Nicaragua will be to build a partnership between Liomer and Bluefields students. Liomer students are ready for this collaboration, and they hope to hear soon from their Nicaraguan fellows!


My week with bE

By Chakriya Srey -- Fresh out of my freshman year at American University, I volunteered with blueEnergy in Bluefields, Nicaragua for one week in June. Unsure of what to expect, I traveled to Bluefields prepared to experience anything and everything. As I soon found out, my time with blueEnergy was much too short and left me with a lasting desire to return and continue volunteering with blueEnergy and help make a real difference in the isolated communities along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

During the fleeting week that I spent with blueEnergy, I assisted in the installation of a 70-watt solar panel system to provide electricity at the house of a local family in the community of Rocky Point. Throughout the installation, Tyson, an 11-year old boy living in the home assisted the volunteers in installing the solar panel and lights. He also learned about the intricacies of wiring the house and how each system worked. To me, watching Tyson engage in the installation truly embodies blueEnergy's mission of building capacity in rural communities. Not only did Tyson walk away from the project with two lights for his home but with knowledge, understanding, and a new spark for true innovation and forward change. Tyson animatedly chatted with his father after the completion of the installation and excitedly explained how he used a drill for the first time and learned to cut wires. This further solidifies that blueEnergy projects have positive impacts on communities - whether it be with the young or old, big or small.
Tyson connecting the plug end of the extension
My time in Bluefields with blueEnergy left a lasting impression on me. Through working with poor communities in Nicaragua, blueEnergy proves that global change is possible, through the simplest of ways, and that methods are meant to be tried and changed, evolving constantly, as no one model fits the whole. I hope to volunteer with blueEnergy again in the future, as they truly exemplify sustainable development through their work in Nicaragua.
Chakriya with the panels under the house
Photo credits -- Johnny Lee


blueEnergy Committed to the Environment

By Kenia Joiner and Chris Sparadeo -- As a member of the Municipal Environmental Commission, blueEnergy has recently participated in different activities in celebration of international Environment Day. These activities were developed in conjunction with members of the environmental commission including governmental institutions such as MARENA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources), MAGFOR (Nicaraguan Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry), MINED (Nicaraguan Ministry of Education), FUNCOS (Nicaraguan Sustainable Harvest Foundation), FADCANIC (Foundation for the Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua), the Municipality of Bluefields, and the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) and the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Atlantic Coast (URACCAN).

Reforestation “El Pool Natural Reserve”
Reforestation in the El Pool Natural Reserve took place on the 26th of May 2012, with the goal of planting 200 Mahogany trees in the area. Situated on the outskirts of the neighborhood “19th of July”, El Pool has historically been exploited for its natural resources, namely trees and rocks. Its transition into a Natural Reserve in 2009 has diminished levels of degradation while allowing for many of the native flora and fauna to reclaim their rightful terrain. Participants in the reforestation efforts included MARENA, MAGFOR, the Municipality of Bluefields, BICU, Guardabarrancos and blueEnergy.

Chris Sparadeo (r) helps plant mahogany trees at El Pool
Inter-University Forum on Solid Waste Management
In efforts to sensitize university students to the importance of solid waste management, blueEergy presented its experience with biodigestion to an audience of around 60 students, professors and governmental officials at the BICU University. blueEnergy’s Gilles Charlier, Renewable Energy Program Coordinator, shared his insights on the subject in his presentation titled “Biodigesters for Organic Solid Waste Management.” Charlier described blueEnegry’s current involvement in using small-scale biodigestion as cooking fuel as well as its larger scaled proposal to implement a biodigester at the municipal slaughterhouse to offset its electricity usage.

Gilles Charlier presents bE's experience with biodigesters
Municipal Fair: Exhibition and Craft Competition with Recyclable Material
Artistic Expression! On the 7th of July, students from BICU and URACCAN universities came together at Plaza Caracol in Reyes Park to present their crafts fashioned completely out of recycled materials. Who said garbage is waste? The creativity of the young university students was in its highest expression, with a myriad of articles ranging from handbags made of reutilized plastic, recycled paper cards to plastic bottle brooms. Students also gave public workshops in recycled paper pressing and jewelry making. After a day of fierce competition, it was BICU who took home the bacon for their work with recycled papers. Second place went to the students of URACCAN and their plastic/aluminum hybrid creations. Congratulations to the 4th and 5th year ecology students for their participation, creativity and support of recycling efforts in Bluefields. Alongside the students, the womens' municipal compost cooperative showcased and sold its high-grade compost generated from the municipal landfill. blueEnergy was in attendance to show its support for the recycling initiatives and to demonstrate its projects with renewable energies.

Exhibition and craft competition with recycled materials
Alongside the students, the coordinating members of the event had a strong presence at the fair. The Municipality of Bluefields, MARENA, and of course blueEnergy presented work to the public.

Check out more photos!


Crafting a Wind Turbine in a Single Day: Berkeley High School Students Get it Done!

By Kate Graham -- The Green Academy is a small learning community at Berkeley High School where students participate in interdisciplinary and experiential learning projects related to ecology and sustainable energy. This is one of five schools participating in the PG&E New Energy Academy, a program created in 2010 as the result of a partnership between PG&E and the California Department of Education.

Green Academy teacher, Mr. Jamie Robertson, invited the blueEnergy education team to lead a wind turbine workshop for students in his Energy Physics class. Mr. Robertson asks his students to look at conceptual physics through the lens of what it has to teach about sustainable energy. Students consider questions such as: How does one define energy? Why is it used? Why isn’t it free? What alternative energy options are currently available? The blueEnergy wind turbine workshop provided a hands-on opportunity for students to explore the answers to such questions.

On May 23rd students gathered with blueEnergy educators in the Berkeley High School metal shop. Setting up production stations between iron sculptures, collections of ceramic work, scraps of metal and a wood fired kiln, blueEnergy staff members and volunteers led students through the stages of creating a wind turbine system. Mathias Craig taught students to use a drawknife, hammer and chisel, plane, and sand paper to sculpt blades from Douglas Fir. Pauline Caumon and Phil Homer helped students carefully insert high powered magnets into the turbine’s rotor. Andreas Karelas demonstrated how to coil copper wires and solder coils together to make a generating stator, and Christian Casillas gave presentations on wind power theory and function.
Sawing wind turbine blades can be tricky -
Mathias gives a lesson to two fast learners

Copper wire coiling station with Andreas
 The morning session moved along in high gear breaking only for a few slices of pizza before pushing through the afternoon heat to complete the turbine. Mr. Robinson and Mathias closed the workshop with a final group reflection and Q&A session, and then invited students to take turns rotating the wind turbine generator. Cheers erupted as the wind turbine proved its effectiveness by powering a small light bulb and water pump.

The wind turbine will be displayed on campus to serve as a symbol for all students to consider the many possibilities associated with alternative energy sources. The Berkeley High School community should be proud of the Green Academy class for pulling off the enormous feat of creating a wind turbine in a single day.

Who said it couldn't be done?
Proud students stand with their new wind turbine

Check out more photos from this incredible day here.

If you are interested in learning more about blueEnergy wind turbine workshops please contact Kate Graham at:


How to Stay Involved Stateside: Past Volunteer Runs FUNdraiser for blueEnergy

By Monica Ralston -- I spent two months working on a development project in Bluefields, Nicaragua with blueEnergy shortly after my 2009 college graduation. My time with blueEnergy left a lasting impression through the following years, as I taught in Colombia, interned in DC, and subsequently moved to San Francisco for a job at a solar energy company. When I found myself in the Bay Area I decided to find a way to again become involved with blueEnergy.

After a lengthy discussion with blueEnergy’s Founder and Executive Director, Mathias Craig, I determined that the best way to start my stateside relationship with blueEnergy would be to participate in a marathon fundraiser. My training for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in Redwoods, CA (Humboldt County) was already underway, and I was familiar with the process of fundraising through races, so it was a natural fit.
44 donors gave a total of $2,398 to support blueEnergy through my fundraising site, and the process was surprisingly easy!

Here are 5 tips for a simple yet successful race fundraiser:

  1. Pick a race that matches your interests and will be challenging for your personal fitness level.
  2. Create a FirstGiving Page, a safe and easy way for people to donate. For an example see my FirstGiving page:
  3. Brainstorm a list of potential donors (Family, friends, co-workers, etc).
  4. Contact these people via email and/or facebook.
  5. Follow-up with progress updates and thank those who have donated.
Monica crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles

I had a lot of fun training for the race, and this fundraiser helped me reconnect with blueEnergy and share their mission of working with Nicaragua's most isolated poor with a whole new group of people. So, if you are looking for a way to work with blueEnergy from your home state, this is a great way to do it. You can also come up with your own creative fundraising ideas and contact Kate Graham (blueEnergy’s Development Officer) at for assistance.

Next up: Bringing back bE trivia night. If you live in the Bay Area keep your eye out for information about the next bE trivia night fundraiser, located in San Francisco.

Monica with her boyfriend Jaime and her mom Carla,
who ran the marathon and the 10K

Monica Ralston volunteered with blueEnergy for 2 months in 2009, primarily working on a development project. She thoroughly enjoyed her time in in Bluefields, Nicaragua, running with friends, making large group dinners, and going on wild panga rides. Monica grew up in Portland, OR and went to Middlebury College in Vermont, where she studied Environmental Studies and Economics. She currently lives in San Francisco and works at a solar energy company.


Diagnosing the Rio Escondido communities

By Chris Sparadeo -- El Rio Escondido is one of the most important rivers in Nicaragua. Its 88km passage from El Rama to Bluefields serves as a vital transportation route from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. Not only are the river's economic values of importance, but its diverse ecosystems sustain its riverside denizens as well. As Rio Escondido is an accumulation of four Pacific side tributaries, its biotic health has been steadily deteriorating due to the influx of accumulated contamination in recent years.

blueEnergy recently set out to gather useful community data in eight of the nine riverside communities in efforts to provide meaningful energy assistance throughout the area. In April's rainiest week, bE navigated Rio Escondido’s winding, narrow basins and traversed its unforgiving terrain to hold community workshops and deliver household surveys of which implicated an impressive 33% of the population. The idea: to better understand community dynamics and current health and energy conditions to allow blueEnergy to provide for the communities' specific energy and sanitation needs.

Danilo recording group responses in Mahogany

According to the data gathered, a surprising 24% of households acquire water for consumption from the river and its basins. Although most other sources of water in the community are presumably contaminated, it is assured that river water from Rio Escondido is most definitely unsuitable for consumption. 35% of households do not use latrines, and of the 65% that do, only 18% are considered “non-contaminating”. With ongoing projects in well drilling, water filtration and dry latrines, the new statistics have blueEnergy’s Water and Sanitation team watering at the mouth.

Pearl verifying the map drawn of Sisi

Current applications of renewable energy within the community are minimal, and household illumination practices consist of candles, flashlights and kerosene lamps. Cooking is dominated by the use of wood, of which it is predicted the average household uses somewhere around of 570 sticks of wood per month.

Community members listening intently to Danilo in Mahogany

Although the amassed information demonstrates the communities’ current limitations, blueEnergy recognizes that through its lack of fundamental necessities, the region exhibits an immense potential for sustainable energies and development. Each and every one of the eight communities demonstrated a sincere unity and commitment that characterizes the region's amazing capacity.