January 9th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com)
Reach The Future, A San Francisco Bay Area organization that operates community outreach programs for green businesses, partnered with local nonprofit, Power To The People to bring solar power and energy efficient LED lighting to a school in the off-grid community of La Uva, Nicaragua. Power to the People played a major role in this project as they work together with communities in the developing world to install solar electric (photovoltaic) systems on community buildings. They had identified La Uva as a prime candidate that could immediately benefit from having solar power and energy efficient lighting in their school.
This project is part of Reach The Future’s mission to promote and develop sustainable growth and consumption models locally and internationally.
“It is up to us, the early adopters of sustainable behavior and technology, to lead the way and guide the rest of the world toward more sustainable growth models” says Reach The Future Founder, Michael Gutman. “If every developing country chooses to leverage cheap, available fossil fuel to stimulate growth we are all in big trouble. This is our chance to showcase a different, more sustainable way to generate opportunity and prosperity for communities living off the grid.”
The community of La Uva is located in an ancient volcanic crater in the central part of Nicaragua and 15 miles away from any power line. La Uva has a population of 300 and the surrounding villages are home to more than 5,000 people living without electricity and access to basic services like health care, secondary education and phones lines. Communities sustain themselves with small farms and livestock and many of the men travel to Costa Rica to work in the plantations for months at a time to support their families.
La Uva has only one 2-room small school for all of its school children and one teacher that travels from the nearby town of San Lorenzo every week to teach the children. Like many off-grid towns in Nicaragua, the community members go to bed around 8pm when the sun goes down because there is no light to see by, no way to read, no way to study and no entertainment or news to watch or listen to. Because of the efforts of green-minded Bay Area organizations, to bring solar power and LED lighting to La Uva’s school, all this is about to change.
REACH Alliance member Elemental LED, a San Francisco Bay Area LED lighting company, donated the LED lighting for the project and funded Reach The Future’s expenses associated with traveling off-grid. Sun Edison, a San Francisco Bay Area based solar company, sponsored the project by donating $20,000 to Power To The People, which helps cover expenses associated with installing and maintaining the system.
“We live in a global community where our actions influence each other. I feel it is part of Elemental LED’s corporate responsibility to go above and beyond just the sale of energy efficient LED lights, but to help others who are less fortunate feel the positive impact of sustainable technology,” says Randy Holleschau, CEO at Elemental LED. “By donating LED’s and supporting Reach The Future on this project, we are making a huge positive impact in La Uva’s community”
“The SunEdison Eradication of Darkness (SEED) program is designed to deliver solar electrification to remote villages such as La Uva,” says Carlos Domenech, President of SunEdison. “Through this program, we are working with governments and organizations like Reach the Future and Power to the People to provide clean electricity to those who’ve never had it. We look forward to seeing the transformational benefits that the people of La Uva experience now and for generations to come.”
Installing the system took two days and a joined effort from Power To The People, Reach The Future, local Nicaraguan solar installer Suni Solar and members of La Uva’s community. The installation required wiring the school to power 12 LED lights, mounting and wiring 5 solar panels, installing a battery back up system that is charged by the solar panels during the day and powers the school at night and a battery charging station for community members to charge batteries.
Now that the school in La Uva has solar power and LED lighting, this off-grid community plans on taking advantage of new opportunities such as having literacy classes at night for those who work during the day, a battery charging station so community members can bring electricity into their homes and a centralized place to celebrate holidays as a community.
“Having lights and power in school is something many of us take for granted. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of having outlets to listen to music, watch videos in class, or simply use lights to read at night or on a cloudy day. Battery-based solar systems are a great solution for bringing clean energy to rural areas that are far away from the electric grid.” says Jenean Smith, founder of Power to the People.
Editor’s note: This article is based on a press release and does not necessarily reflect the views of Inside Costa Rica, and has not been submitted to the ICR editorial process.