The latest small stage of our solar project (‘Proyecto Sol’) brings to just 202 the total of households where electricity has been installed in the rural parts of Masaya since 2005, for a total investment of just over $200,000.
We’re still working in the isolated area between Nicaragua’s two big lakes, which ironically is less than 20km from the international airport. Yet there remain dozens of small communities with no electricity and with little prospect of getting it, because of the cost of extending the grid when compared with their modest power consumption.
A noteworthy change since 2005 is that – apart from night-time illumination – one of the main uses for solar electricity is to charge the mobile phones now ubiquitous in Nicaragua’s countryside (and the cities too, of course). In the first house we visited, a handful of the owners’ and neighbours phones, and a torch, were being charged from the midday sun.
A big factor in the project’s favour at the moment is that Nicaragua is at last benefitting from the global fall in the costs of the equipment needed – not only the panels, but the small inverters and control units also required, This means that a kit can now be installed for less than $400, more or less half the cost when we began the project eight years ago.
We have also installed a total of 15 kits with money recovered from the revolving fund, as people repay the interest-free loans they take out when they sign up for a solar kit. However, the shortage of capital finance means we can’t advance as quickly as we would wish.
This was brought home as we were stopped after leaving one of the families by a young disabled girl, Jessica, who asked when we would bring electricity to her house. It was very difficult not to promise that we would – so now we have to find the next tranche of funds as soon as possible!