Bringing Solar to Rural Guatemala and Cambodia
By Cassandra Boyce, Twende Solar - In an effort to empower energy deficient communities with a reliable energy source, Portland-based non-profit Twende Solar (Twende) is embarking on two off-grid solar installations in 2016. Seeking to revolutionize the academic capacity of two rural schools, Twende is installing a 6.6kW solar PV system on a high school in a remote rainforest community of Guatemala and a 26kW system on a middle school outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. In partnership with three other Oregon-based organizations, these projects are indicative of the forward-thinking and socially-minded values Oregonians hold true.
Located in one of the poorest and least-served regions of Guatemala, Adopt-A-Village(AAV) partners with Mayan villages to improve education, health, and economic conditions throughout the area. AAV has been working steadily in northwestern Huehuetenango for 25 years, growing and evolving in response to the needs of the communities where they work—including constructing the Maya Jaguar School in 2009.
Unlike other rural schools, the Maya Jaguar School offers students a specialty two-year Computer Sciences course in addition to regular computer classes. In a region of Guatemala that has few computer professionals, this valuable diploma course all but guarantees gainful employment upon graduation. Currently limited to the production of an improperly sized and nearly defunct PV system, AAV is seeking a reliable energy source to power its computer lab and technology courses. Twende has designed a 6.6kW battery-backup solar PV system to power the academic initiatives of the Maya Jaguar School and to inspire students to pursue STEM career paths. Additionally, the modules from the current system will be repurposed into a cell phone charging station for community members and AAV volunteers to use while on campus. Five volunteers from Elemental Energy will travel to Guatemala in early August to complete the installation and to teach students about solar energy systems. The 6.6kW system will produce an estimated 10,100+kW/h per year, outfitted with 24 modules generously donated by itek Energy.
An estimated 10 million people live without access to electricity in Cambodia, feeding into a cycle of poverty, poor health conditions, and minimal economic mobility. In a country plagued by the aftermath of a vicious genocide that specifically targeted anyone with a formal education, resources and opportunities to rise above the oversaturated and unstable agricultural sector are limited. The recently constructed Stephen Mazujian Middle School is the only school available for the youth of Arah Svay and several of its surrounding villages—communities which represent some of the poorest areas of Siem Reap. It is quite a sad paradox considering its close proximity to the Angkor Wat complex, which attracts millions of tourists each year. Despite healthy tourist population, over 50% of Siem Reap residents live below the poverty line: less than .43 cents (USD) per day.
Currently limited by the capacity of an expensive diesel generator, the middle school is in pursuit of a more sustainable option. As enrollment increases and upgraded technologies are integrated, a PV system is the clear solution to empower the next generation of innovative thinkers and leaders. Twende has designed a 26kW off-grid PV system to support the school’s growing energy needs, avoiding expensive diesel generators, while also providing a unique hands-on renewable energy learning opportunity to thousands of students over the lifespan of the system. Most notably, the solar array will power a brand new computer lab—connecting students to a wealth of new ideas and ultimately inspiring them to pursue opportunities beyond the traditional agricultural labor sector. Paired with a solar curriculum, the system will serve as a learning tool for students to explore renewable energy systems, while complementing topics taught in science, math, and IT courses.
A key part of Twende Solar’s mission is to bridge the gap between renewable energy experts and energy-deficient populations. 12 volunteers from various solar companies and industry sectors are traveling to Cambodia this October to donate their time, expertise, and brawn to electrify the academic programming at Stephan Mazujian Middle School. Paired with manufacturer partnerships and sponsorships, this is truly an industry led initiative, fueled by the passion and dedication of renewable energy leaders like yourself.
Solar Social + Silent Disco -- Thursday, August 25 from 6-10pm at Vestas Rooftop Terrace - Join Twende Solar for a casual summer gathering on the solarized roof terrace of the historic Meier & Frank warehouse in downtown Portland. Engage with other renewable energy professionals and enthusiasts as Twende presents footage from its recent Guatemala installation and introduces its upcoming project in Cambodia. Guests will be invited to close out the evening with a silent disco dance party as the sun sets over the west hills. Visit www.twendesolar.org/social for tickets and additional event information.