blueEnergy works to create a more equitable, sustainable world


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!


WindEmpowerment at Rio+20

By Mathias Craig (with contributions from Piet Chevalier and Gaël Cesa) -- Piet Chevalier (i-love-windpower Mali and Siemens wind power), Gaël Cesa (Tripalium) and Mathias Craig (blueEnergy) attended the Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development Conference in Rio de Janero, Brazil, from June 16-20 on behalf of WindEmpowerment. We were invited by Siemens AG and Siemens Stiftung to participate in their "Technology in Action" display initiative at the Conference. The opportunity materialized because WindEmpowerment's Technical Director, Piet Chevalier, is an employee in the Siemens wind power division, working as an engineer on off-shore wind turbine design and because of his work in Mali and with WindEmpowerment, he was able to convince Siemens to support WindEmpowerment's attendance.

The purpose of the visit was four-fold:

1) to display WindEmpowerment in the Siemens/UNEP tent to promote the association,
2) to identify potential funding sources for WindEmpowerment,
3) to teach a hands on wind turbine building workshop, and
4) to work with a local NGO to install a wind turbine in the Rio de Janeiro area.

Prior to the conference Piet built two Siemens-funded wind turbines in Holland and shipped them to Rio. These two turbines were used for display at the conference, one going outside the UNEP tent and one inside near the speaker’s podium.

Piet and Gaël arrived in Rio on June 2nd to connect with local organizations about the wind turbine workshop and installation, to prepare the display installations and to acquire the materials, tools and space needed for the workshop.
There were many challenges in preparing the display installations, in particular for the outdoor one, including concerns about safety, the construction of a tower and more. But Piet and Gaël persevered and were ultimately successful in getting two very high profile, attractive displays put together.

The displays attracted the attention of high-ranking members of Siemens, including the CEO of the Renewable Energy Hydro and Solar division, the CEO of Siemens Brazil (shown below), and a very high ranking member of the managing board. It also drew the attention of visiting dignitaries, institutional representatives and academics.

Throughout the key four days of the conference, Mathias had multiple opportunities to speak from the podium in the UNEP tent and explain WindEmpowerment. This helped the association gain broader exposure to an interested audience.

During the conference, we learned of a competition being held by Siemens Stiftung called “empowering people. Award”. The award is intended to support organizations and individuals whose innovations are contributing to development and bettering lives around the world. We are exploring the possibility of applying for the award, which could be an opportunity for WindEmpowerment to gain broader exposure.

Prior to the main conference and in parallel to it, Gaël and Piet organized a complete wind turbine building workshop. There were 8 participants in the workshop: 6 university students from the University Federal Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), one member of a social organization and one engineer.

Gaël led the workshop and over a period of 8 days the students completed a 2.4m, 48V Piggott wind turbine from scratch.

The students were part of a group at their university that promotes agroforestry and composting in Rio and the surrounding areas and this wind turbine workshop was a nice hands-on addition to their experience.

In addition to this complete workshop, a series of mini-workshops were given at the start of the conference on blade carving and on the theory and design of the turbine. These sessions at the UNEP tent were attended by 30 students, many of who were interested in staying involved beyond the conference.

At the conclusion of the conference, Piet and Gaël worked to install the wind turbine produced in the Rio workshop and put it into operation. The turbine was installed on private property in the town of Araruama, about 1.5 hours north of Rio. The advantage of the site is that many low-income farmers have access to the site and there is potential to link the system to an abandoned school that could be transformed into a wind turbine training center.

The installed system is comprised of: 2.4m Piggott wind turbine, 40ft tilt-up tower, MorningStar 45 charge controller, Phoenix 750W 48V DC 220 VAC inverter, 4x 12V 160AH battery bank (in series).

The tools purchased for the workshop are stored on this site for future use in wind turbine building activities. With all the interest generated at the conference and the workshop we are optimistic that this initiative is just the beginning of an emergence of small-scale wind power in Brazil.

A picture album of the activities can be viewed here. A video of the wind turbine workshop can be viewed here.

For more information about WindEmpowerment’s presence at the Rio+20 event, please contact Piet Chevalier @


A summer in San Francisco with blueEnergy

By Austen Sybert -- College students have many choices when deciding how to spend their
summers away from school. Work, more school, volunteer, intern or just lay at the
pool are all options, widely varying in their degree of academic enrichment and
rejuvenation. This summer, I interned for blueEnergy and the opportunity provided
a perfect compliment to my formal environmental engineering studies. My
entrepreneurship and management training was accelerated under the supervision
of a fellow environmental engineer, Executive Director Mathias Craig, who has
successfully used engineering in complement with entrepreneurship and passion to
achieve a more equitable and sustainable world.

I knew by committing to my internship with blueEnergy I was not embarking
on developing complex engineering models based on facts that I directly learned back at
school. This transition to a work environment removed from my
environmental engineering studies initially caused some apprehension. Then I
recognized that my internship would utilize my foundation in engineering to diversify my
skill set, ultimately providing greater enrichment than if I remained in my narrow
window of expertise. blueEnergy allowed me to apply my analytic knowledge base
to an innovative business environment.

This summer I helped run day-to-day operations in a small entrepreneurial
office - I planned and implemented the Change Today Empower Tomorrow
campaign tactics, which raised over $10,000 in 4 weeks - I coordinated
communications and developed data management solutions with the blueEnergy
global community via data collection, social media and email outreach - I problem
solved blueEnergy's organizational structure with two co-founders, Mathias and
Guillaume Craig, which was definitely the highlight of my time with blueEnergy.
My summer spent with blueEnergy was a highly valuable way to compliment
my formal engineering studies by diversifying my skillset. I am now looking forward
applying my broader range of skills to enhance my final year of studies at Johns
Hopkins University and my future career. 
Intern, Austen Sybert takes in a Giant's game on his last day interning with blueEnergy. 
Thanks blueEnergy!