Significant progress has been achieved in the ESF Peru project to bring electricity to a rural Andea mountain village. The story begins in August of 2012 when ERE student TJ Decker and the ESF Engineering for a Sustainable Society and Engineers Without Borders clubs (ESS/EWB) began a sustainable electrification project in the Andean community of Abra Malaga, Peru. Abra Malaga had no Peruvian support to implement electricity of their village homes, and the community had no in-door lighting or basic electrical services. Thanks to an ESF alumni we learned of Abra Malaga’s interest in partnering with ESS/EWB and our club engaged the project. The process for ESS/EWB was to first establish a partnership with ECOAN (Ecosistemas Asociacion Andinos), an on the ground NGO, to facilitate an agreed upon project with Abra Malaga. The plan – provide and install solar panels and pico-hydro generators as a sustainable and long lasting energy source for electrification. Our target was to bring electricity to all 20 homes in Abra Malaga and to create education opportunities for the community so that after the project’s completion, the community would be self-sufficient.

A community gathering in Abra Malaga where the kids received small gifts for Christmas and ate Panaton and Chocolatadas.

A community gathering in Abra Malaga where the kids received small gifts for Christmas and ate Panaton and Chocolatadas.

After a year of technical work on the pico-hydro generator TJ led a group of students to Peru in August 2013 and completed Phase I of the project. The work from this trip can be seen at our ERENGINEERING blog link. Significant technical and partnership progress was made on this August 2013 trip. The village, ECOAN, and ESS/EWB parties agreed upon a Memorandum of Understanding and kick-started the project with enthusiasm.

ERE Student TJ Decker with Heimenegildo Apaza Eihame with a solar panel that was installed in his home

ERE Student TJ Decker with Heimenegildo Apaza Eihame with a solar panel that was installed in his home.

Since that trip additional fundraising presentations were successful in collecting the needed donations to enable Phase II of the project and a return trip to Peru. To put this in context, the electricity project in Abra Malaga is a humanitarian engineering project and as such it needs face-to-face connections to increase the chances for successful project planning and ground implementation. Face-to-face time is hard to maintain between NY and Peru, and in order to keep the project rolling without long stagnant periods, Phase II was scheduled for December 2013, only 4 months after Phase I. TJ arrived in Peru on December 15 with the Phase II goals of continuing installation of solar panels, assessing the pico-hydro performance, and to establishing long and short term education opportunities so the community can take over project maintenance and expansion.

Victor, of ECOAN conducted a workshop so that the community no longer had to rely on them to fix and install the solar panel systems.

Victor, of ECOAN conducted a workshop so that the community no longer had to rely on them to fix and install the solar panel systems.

Over the course of the December 2013 trip TJ worked with ECOAN to purchase four solar panels. These panels were brought to Abra Malaga and a half day workshop was conducted by ECOAN and ESS/EWB to teach community members the workings and instructions of solar panel installation. After the workshop, the team stepped back and allowed the community to install the panels themselves, giving them equal technical ownership of the project. This approach was a HUGE success because the workshop was a positive step in the direction technical education and community self-sufficiency with solar panel maintenance and installation.

For the first time, the woman on the left whose name is Honorata Sinchi Machaca has a light fixture that she can use at night. To the right is ERE student TJ Decker.

For the first time, the woman on the left whose name is Honorata Sinchi Machaca has a light fixture that she can use at night. To the right is ERE student TJ Decker.

There was also progress with the pico hydro generators with the donation of two charge controllers from Morningstar and the construction of a cement settling tank for clarifying the hydro power source. The generators provide 24/7 electricity from water rather than only 12 hours a day of electricity from solar panels. The generators are a work-in-progress and should be up and running by February 2014. The generators will give the community the capacity to expand on their electricity use and capture another source of renewable energy from the local Andes environment.

The pico-hydro system was up and running in October 2013 and producing electricity! Soon, the systems will be connected with Morningstar charge controllers and the systems will then be put into use.

The pico-hydro system was up and running in October 2013 and producing electricity! Soon, the systems will be connected with Morningstar charge controllers and the systems will then be put into use.

With the combination of solar panels and pico-hydro electricity, ESF students have been able to reduce the number of homes without electricity from 20 to 3. This was tremendous progress for a relatively short period of time, limited trips, and a modest budget. With additional fundraising and additional equipment, the entire community will have full access to basic electrical services. Within a year, the community will also have two local men and women fully trained in electricity installation and maintenance thanks to the ECOAN sponsorship; ECOAN is inviting Abra Malaga community members to come to the city of Cusco for a short course in sustainable energy and the fundamentals of electricity.

 TJ also participated in a reforestation campaign of Polylepis that was conducted by ECOAN. This photo is at Huacahuasi Pass at 15,200 ft above mean sea level.

TJ also participated in a reforestation campaign of Polylepis that was conducted by ECOAN. This photo is at Huacahuasi Pass at 15,200 ft above mean sea level.

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