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INATEC and blueEnergy Give Solar Install Class in Rocky Point

By Chris Sparadeo -- Since November of 2011 blueEnergy has been working with the community of Rocky Point to install small-scale solar photovoltaic systems. Although the national electric grid cuts through Rocky Point on its way to Pearl Lagoon, issues of high energy cost, geographical isolation and frequent blackouts have deterred its application.

A community of roughly 35 families, Rocky Point relies primarily on subsistence farming. The accompanied lifestyle of these isolated farming practices is ultimately as follows:

Wake up an hour or two before the sun rises. Cook in the dark. Work and socialize in the day until the sun begins to set. Cook in the dark. Go to bed before 8 pm.

This routine, affected by the lack of access to electricity, creates quite a challenge for students and community organizations wanting to work past natural light limitations. With the sun setting around 5 pm, most people are forced to buy candles and costly batteries that produce eye-straining, dim light. The high costs and low effectiveness of these subpar solutions often times entice countryside denizens to relocate themselves, in search of television and entertainment, to Bluefields.

The 70-watt solar photovoltaic systems allow the people of Rocky Point access to light and electricity. The electrical capacity of the system is specifically designed to power three CFL light fixtures and allow for the moderate use of fans, radios, cell phone chargers and small televisions. Since November of this year, blueEnergy has helped illuminate 12 houses in Rocky Point, all of which were supported and subsidized by blueEnergy Service Learning Interns participating in the installations.

To fortify future sustainability of these installations, blueEnergy thought it best to establish a group of community members trained in technical and maintenance aspects of the systems. Along with the unfaltering support of blueEnergy’s long time partner INATEC (National Technical Institute), a community capacitation was given at the Rocky Point communal house the first week of July. A total of 12 community members participated in the full day, INATEC-recognized workshop. Course topics included battery maintenance, wiring of electrical circuits, system component maintenance and troubleshooting. Accompanying the theoretical concepts, course participants got their hands dirty installing a 70-watt photovoltaic system in the community. The course was directed by INATEC professor Ismael Castillo and co-taught and designed by UC Berkeley Energy Corps volunteer Jonathan Lee and blueEnergy technician Chris Sparadeo. The course participants received recognition of technical completion from INATEC.

Students taking notes
Ismael watching Johnny explain electricity

With a continually growing interest in solar technology from blueEnergy Service Learning Interns, Rocky Point installations are projected to seguir adelante with its community-verified successes. House by house the small farming community of Rocky Point is gaining not only support from renewable energies, but also the knowledge and capacity needed to achieve lasting sustainability and meaningful impact.

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