It’s coming up to seven years since we installed the first solar kit in one of the rural communities near Masaya which don’t have electricity. Our original volunteer engineer, Marc Ricart (from Barcelona – centre in photo), left installers like Norman Padilla (right) with the skills to continue the scheme. ‘Proyecto Sol’ has now brought first-time electricity to almost 200 families. How’s it looking seven years on?
Herling Perez of ADIC, the local NGO that runs the project, recently visited the first 50 installations that we have made over the period since 2004. He found that all the solar panels erected are still functioning well, and about three-quarters of the kits are still being maintained and provide daily power. This is principally because the owners (many of whom have now paid the original cost of their kits) have invested in new batteries, as these components only have a 2-3 year life.
We’re now following the up the quarter of cases which have problems. Some need new batteries and – if they are more or less up-to-date with their payments – to finance them we’ll offer new loans (which they repay over many months, with no interest). In a few cases the invertors or regulators have failed and need to be replaced. Others are now in communities which have since been connected to the grid, so we aim to recycle these panels elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in the Malacotoya area to the north of Masaya (see the last bulletin on Palo Alto), there is still demand for new systems from communities that are remote from the grid and are unlikely ever to be connected. We have a small fund available for a new phase of installations there, which we hope to receive and use before the dry season ends (mid-May). Once the rains arrive, many of the places cease to be accessible even by 4×4 vehicles.
The World Bank recently estimated that using kerosene lamps to light your house (held by the first child in the photo here) is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. This pollution affects 780 million people worldwide (mainly women and children), including a good proportion of families in rural parts of Nicaragua. Not only that, but the cost of buying (and travelling to buy) the kerosene is so expensive that making weekly payments towards buying a solar kit, as in our project, can actually work out cheaper.
We need to continue to find donors in the UK, like the many housing associations which have helped us in the past, to be able to extend the project to the next hundred families.
These projects are carried out by ADIC Masaya, supported by the Leicester Masaya Link Group, with donations from various housing associations and others in the UK. More information on the projects is available from our projects page, from LMLG or using our contact page.
To make a financial contribution please visit the LMLG donations page where you can also donate using Gift Aid.