Making a Difference in People’s Lives

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Solar Energy and The Selva Negra Coffee Estate

Riley Harwood is a recent graduate of North Carolina State University who teamed up with a group of other NC State students for a trip to the Selva Negra Coffee Estate and Mountain Resort to install and distribute solar electricity to the local people. The One Million Lights program sponsored this project.

Riley travelled to the estate for 2 weeks to facilitate the installation of permanent solar systems on six individual houses. The project comes at no cost to the people of Matagulpa. Riley resourced electrical wiring, tools, and other items from his job that would have gone to waste to be re-purposed for this project. LED lights, high voltage batteries, and solar panels were all donated by GE. The rest of the project’s cost was covered through fundraising. One of the biggest issues Riley faced was finding specific materials such as screws, bolts, and tools due to the limited resources available in the area. The group was given free lodging and food in exchange for their work to install solar on the Selva Negra Coffee Estate and across the local villages. They distributed nearly 400 lanterns in under a month to the Matagulpa community members who had access to electricity maybe once a week.

A long-term goal of the project is to revisit Matagulpa and create a permanent microgrid system. The owner of the coffee estate acted as a tour guide and liaison to Riley and the team and is extremely grateful for this work. Riley is currently working for Alpha Energy, a top renewable energy company on a project in Fayetteville, North Carolina.


 Picture from Kuni Takahashi of the New York Times

Picture from Kuni Takahashi of the New York Times

Selco India and Their Plan for Energy Independence in Impoverished India

B. Prasad is an agent for the Solar Electric Company who helped facilitate the switch in India from kerosene lighting for solar power lighting systems. He did so through creating a system of credit for those in impoverished areas with citizens who often make less than $1 a day. While doing so, the company only turned $62,500 in profit in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. This is especially impressive because almost all money put into the program was cycled back into the program to increase growth in the benefit of solar energy. The most astounding aspect of this project is that the locals only have a 7.4% default rate on their loans. To accomplish this, Mr. Prasad and Selco created a system that made each member a guarantor of all other members. Basically, if one defaults, everyone does, which decreases the risk for the investors. This created a system that benefitted all parties and resulted in nearly free energy in the area. To read the full article: www.nytimes.com/electrifying-india-with-the-sun-and-small-loans


The Worcester Green Low-Income Housing Coalition

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The Worcester Green Low-Income Housing Coalition’s (WGLIHC) mission is to reduce the carbon footprint and energy costs for the providers of homeless services and low income houses in Worcester, Massachusetts. The project aims to use the long-term reduction in energy costs to create social safety nets for families in need. This project was a response to the extreme budgetary issues facing these programs due to the recession. The Dismas House, a member of the coalition, offers affordable apartments for graduates, as well as their families. Since the installation a year and a half ago, the Dismas House has saved $15,000. The Friendly House, a second project being built by the Coalition, provides

shelter, emergency help, good and many other public programs in Worcester. The Friendly House solar system is an 80 kW system. These projects are part of the WGLIHC’s goal to build 200 kW of solar in the next five years.

The infographic below shows the amount of energy saved since the installation is enormous. Annual heating and Electric cost are nearly half of what they were before the switch to solar energy. The final aspect of the infographic shows future property projects and their projected savings from the switch. Read more...

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Fighting Poverty with Clean Energy

Michael Regan currently works for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) southeast office where he diligently creates and facilitates inclusive solutions to the environmental problems faced in impoverished rural areas of North Carolina. To achieve his goal, Mr. Regan focuses on rural and academic institutions that serve minorities.

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In 2012, EDF teamed up with Roanoke Electric Cooperative in Ahoskie, North Carolina. Mr. Regan has worked with Minority Serving Institutions to create a future with environmentally educated youth. The project started with just two schools, but now reaches 40 minority institutions across the nation. In total, the campuses have found $6.9 million in annual energy savings. To read more, see: http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2016/02/22/clean-energy-can-help-tackle-rural-poverty/