Making a Difference in Peru: SEDV Students experience with Light Up the World

Eager to get involved in the Calgary community and build on education gained in the classroom, the SEDV Society reached out to various local organizations, including Calgary-based non-profit, Light Up the World (LUTW), to determine what opportunities were available. Upon discovering Light Up the World’s International Solar Program, which provides volunteer groups with the opportunity to experience the impact of sustainable energy solutions and provide access to electricity for people living in rural Peru, they knew this would be a great opportunity to make a difference and supplement knowledge gained in the classroom setting.

This ten-day program included technical training on design and installation of off-grid, battery-based solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and provided the volunteers with the ability to gain hands on experience through completion of one solar PV installation from start to finish in a rural community building in the Peruvian Andes.

In early June, a group of twelve SEDV students departed to the region of Ancash, Peru for their experiential learning experience. Following a long journey to Huaraz, they visited the LUTW field office, received technical training on electricity and solar PV technology and indulged in some delicious lomo saltado, a traditional Peruvian stir fry dish.

The group continued their travels and completed three evaluations of LUTW’s existing solar installations: a 150 watt system installed at a community school in Querococha, a smaller system installed at an alpaca farm at 4900m altitude in the Andes and a large 300 watt system installed for a cattle farm in the region. These evaluations provided the group the opportunity to visualize the completed solar system and apply their newly gained technical knowledge on a malfunctioning system.

With a practical understanding of off-grid solar PV systems, the volunteers loaded their four-by-four trucks with equipment and tools and set out on their journey to the small off-grid community of Chilca to begin their first install. The site was an elementary school situated on the side of the mountain with beautiful views of the Andes. The school included two classrooms, a dining hall and kitchen area, a Principal’s office, a large library and a storage room. After a heartwarming welcome from the students of Chilca and a preliminary assessment of the school’s electricity needs, the group began work on the wiring, assembly of the electrical box (and battery) and installation of the 150 watt solar panel. Their efforts provided the community with twenty-two lights, eleven outlets and, most importantly, access to light beyond daytime hours.

“Overall, it was an unforgettable and truly invaluable experience. Not only did the group develop a solid technical understanding of solar PV through hands on experience, they were also able to observe first-hand the challenges of off-grid solar development in geographically dispersed, rural areas. It was humbling to meet so many individuals with such little monetary wealth, yet such great appreciation for life and obvious contentment with life’s simplicities. The group is appreciative of Light Up the World’s efforts to ensure the trip was full of education and adventure.” Stephanie Duncan, SEDV Society Communications Representative.

Light Up the World’s work is admirable and the SEDV Society hopes to continue their working relationship with the organization to provide future cohorts with a similar experience.