We are now in a time where renewable energy is becoming increasingly sophisticated, viable, and affordable. That is, if you’re in the developed world. What if you are on the Caribbean coastal region of Nicaragua, the poorest in the country, Nicaragua itself being the second poorest in the western hemisphere, where 80% go without electricity?
In a place of rough terrain, low population density, and lacking in income, it would seem an unlikely place to start a renewable energy company. And yet, blueEnergy have done just that. How? By designing hybrid solar/wind installations that are particularly suited to the region, building them locally, training and employing the local population in their manufacture and repair.
In doing this, they reduce costs, boost the local economy, and increase the likelihood that the equipment will last longer, as the capacity exists to maintain it. blueEnergy is a non profit, and gets funding to further minimize costs. That they use two renewable energy sources in tandem also increases the consistency of power availability.
In blueEnergy’s FAQ is a humbling statistic.
It’s the answer to the question of whether a 1500-2000kWh system will be enough for someone’s home:
A typical home in the United States consumes 11,209 kWh per year, in Japan 5,945 kWh per year, in Europe 4,667 kWh per year, and in a hypothetical high-efficiency home with a Western standard of living 1,300 kWh per year. By contrast, a small home in the remote Caribbean Coast region of Nicaragua might consume more like 150 kWh per year (using two lights, a radio and a small black-and-white television).
This means that with their first 8 installations completed, they’ve served 6 communities, benefited 1500 people, and employed 14 locals. And they’re just getting started. Their intention is first to focus on this region, perfect the model, make it replicable. Then with the support of those interested in seeing it elsewhere, they want to expand into other regions of the world. blueEnergy’s site visitor cluster map seems to confirm there is indeed huge interest in this company and its model, as it is completely smothered in red dots.
How can you help increase renewable energy in the developing world? Volunteer in San Francisco, Nicaragua, or France. If you want to see it in another part of the world, donate, generously. Better yet, bring your expertise, money, and passion, and help them expand their scope. You can learn more and reach them here.
Readers: Where else in the world are you seeing renewable energy effectively reaching underserved populations?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.