Sunday, November 13, 2022

Solar Power Lights up the Village

Solar power is in La Libertad.  The solar panels' prices are half what they were when we started the project in 2012.  Accompanying the drop in prices has been an increase in efficiency.  What does that mean?  We're going solar!

Romario is building and installing a ladder in the guesthouse.  This will be used to access the solar panels for cleaning and maintenance.  With time, oily soot from the open cookfires accumulates on the panels and decreases their effectiveness.  Once a month we must give them a quick wipe-down.

We bought our solar panels and lithium-ion battery from Cristian at Emergy Sun in Leticia.  They helped us with installation tips and some technical support.  This is Energy Sun's fourth year in Leticia.  They have done projects throughout the Colombia Amazon and the surrounding areas of Brazil and Peru.

We installed two 550-watt panels on an aluminum support structure attached to our roof.  These offer a great alternative to the diesel generator used by the village.

The village generator provides electricity between the hours of 3 pm to 8 or 9 pm.  This is convenient but does have some disadvantages.  At least once every three months the generator is broken and needs maintenance.  Even at a subsidized cost, the villagers sometimes find the price of electricity to be too high.  The noise of the generator can be heard throughout the village, taking away from the peaceful sounds of the jungle.  And last, the pollution from burning diesel fuel is easily smelled in the air and seen in the extra soot around the village.

The above picture is of a charge controller.  It helps to regulate the flow of electricity from the panels to our deep cycle battery (deep cycle meaning it can be discharged and recharged over 1000 times without damaging the battery) and to our power inverter, pictured below.

A power inverter changes the direct current supplied by the solar panels and battery to alternating current.  Alternating current is what comes out of the electrical sockets found in homes and other buildings.  Our 2,500-watt inverter powers 15 LED light bulbs, two TVs, two DVD players, cell phone charging, and a small refrigerator during the day.

A 100 amp hour battery will power all of these devices, except for the refrigerator, from 6 pm to 9 pm at night.  However, if the sunlight is not sufficiently strong during the day, the battery will not fully charge.  Then we must run fewer devices.  This may happen during the rainy season, when we may have three or more days of rain and overcast skies.

For now, we only have solar power in the project's buildings.  But, as can be seen in the picture above, many people stop by to charge their cell phones, portable speakers, or other small electronics.

There have been many rumors that the local energy company, ENAM, will install solar panels for the community, but we have heard this for the past three years and nothing has happened.  As the prices of solar power decrease and technologies improve, we hope that one day everyone in the village will benefit from this cleaner energy.

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