Energy Trails: Lighting a path in Guatemala
A team of 15 volunteers will go to Guatemala to build powerlines to likely electrify two village communities.
Village Tierra Blanca Salinas in Ixcán. Photo by Anna Politano
The villages of Pie del Cerro and Tierra Blanca Salinas are tucked away near a rainforest in the region of Ixcán, northwest Guatemala. Collectively, the communities have approximately 100 households, five churches, two elementary schools and two health centers – all without access to reliable and affordable electricity. The locals live in humble means without running water, food refrigeration, or the ability to use electronic appliances for house chores or to aid in their economic growth. They depend on farming operations for economic sustainment; they produce corn, beans, cardamom seeds, cocoa and some vegetables. However, this coming fall, at least one of these villages – or potentially both – will be fully electrified thanks to Oklahoma and Colorado’s electric cooperatives.
Partnering with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)’s philanthropic arm, NRECA International, electric cooperatives from Oklahoma and Colorado will send a team of 15 volunteers to build powerlines to likely electrify both communities.
“Bringing electricity to areas that have none takes us back to our roots of rural electrification,” says Chris Meyers, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC). “It’s a privilege to give back by helping empower far-away communities with the gift of light. Electric cooperatives are well-suited to help decrease the number of those living without electricity worldwide.”
A local utility, Empresa Municipal Rural de Electricidad (EMRE), based in Playa Grande, Ixcán, will maintain the powerlines once they are built. EMRE purchases most of the electric power from hydroelectric plants. The project will consist of 130 poles and two transformers on 4.34 miles of primary line and 3.86 miles of secondary line. Most of the terrain will be flat, but about one mile of line will be built in dense rainforest surroundings. It is estimated that homes will receive at least two lightbulbs and two electrical outlets.
Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives recently announced the selection of eight volunteers who will embark in this journey from September 16 to October 4, 2018. Please see the graphic on the following page for the names of this year’s project volunteers.
“We are grateful to the volunteers for their willingness to leave their families for an extended period of time to help improve lives in Central America,” says Jimmy Taylor, OAEC International Committee chairman. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”
OAEC – a statewide service association supporting Oklahoma’s 30 electric cooperatives – established the Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit to help fund international electrification projects. All contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible. To learn more, click here.
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