Aug. 2, 2019

Student-powered project brings light to rural Peru

New solar energy system changes lives in off-grid community of Hanchipacha, Peru
Engineering students pose with villagers in Peru
Schulich School of Engineering students pose with some local villagers in Peru.

Reading a book by candlelight and cooking over a coal-burning stove while completely cut off from a world increasingly reliant on wireless communication.

Such is life when a mountain range separates your family from the nearest power lines, and when there are no plans to bring your community onto the electricity grid for at least 10 years.

That’s the rustic reality for many rural Peruvians in the Andes Mountain range, and the inspiration behind a recent trip by Schulich School of Engineering students to install a solar power system at the heart of one small village.

“As engineering students, it was an incredible experience to be able to apply skills from the classroom to help under-served communities in such an impactful way,” said team member Clara Nguyen, a mechanical engineering engineering student in her final year at UCalgary.

With electricity comes improved lives

The 11-student team, led by Dr. Hamid Zareipour, PhD, worked in conjunction with Light Up The World (LUTW), a Calgary-based non-profit agency with a mandate of improving lives through access to clean electricity, which is shown to enhance access to education and improve health and safety.

As well, the group worked in partnership with IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology, an international organization that partners with underserved communities to leverage technology for sustainable development.

With training and assistance from local technicians and LUTW staff, the UCalgary team laboured over three days to install a system consisting of a 325W solar panel, nine 5W LED lights, four 220V AC outlets, and two 150 Ah batteries, amongst several other components.

Benefits for remote village

The solar grid provides a number of benefits to the remote village.

For the Schulich School of Engineering

A glowing future for village and community

Once installed, the new power grid was switched on and for the first time in history, the village of Hanchipacha saw its central community centre aglow with solar-sourced electricity.

To celebrate, there was a small ceremony with representatives of the local community where the importance of the community centre and value of the solar system was explained.

The solar grid will provide lighting for town hall meetings, allow children a bright place to study at night, and power a community kitchen in the village.

It’s expected the durable system will serve the Hanchipacha area for years to come, providing educational, economic, environmental, and social benefits to the community.

Sponsorship made solar mission a reality

This project was supported by the Schulich Student Activity Fund, which helped purchase materials such as the solar panel, light bulbs, wiring, and batteries, plus some of the transportation costs.

As well, the team received funding from the Shell Environmental Energy Learning Fund, the Leadership and Student Engagement Office Student Activities Fund, and the University of Calgary Science IDEAS Fund.

Schulich School of Engineeering students in Peru

Several sponsors contributed to the success of the project.

For the Schulich School of Engineering