The Institute - March 2020 - TI-13
Volunteers wire batteries in the solar-panel
system that will provide Hanchipacha with
HOW IT WORKS
IEEE SIGHT partners with local organizations to bring technology to underserved
communities. The IEEE volunteer
network looks to bring sustainable technological solutions to communities so
they can prosper.
Wong first heard about IEEE SIGHT
through an event at the University of
Calgary, where he is a senior working
toward a dual bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science.
The idea of helping others through engineering inspired him to join the group.
"I feel like those of us living in Canada
and other developed nations are very privileged," Wong says, adding that Canadians
have a responsibility to help those without the same level of access to education,
electricity, food, and shelter.
The IEEE volunteers teamed up
with Light Up the World volunteers to
install a 325-watt solar-panel system in
Hanchipacha, an off-grid community
of 150 people. The volunteers drove on
mountain roads for 75 minutes from
Checacupe, where they were staying,
to reach the remote village.
"It's the smaller, remote communities
that have the greatest need, because services won't be brought to them any time
soon," Wong says. "These villages are not
prioritized for development. It could've
taken 10 to 20 years for Hanchipacha to
gain access to [electric] energy."
To choose which villages could benefit
the most from access to electricity, Light
Up the World surveys the needs of communities around the globe.
"All of the communities are off-grid, so
there's no power and no cellphone coverage," Wong says. "Light Up the World
surveys things like government plans
for services in the community, access to
energy, population, and potential uses of
the electricity. One of the villages most
in need was Hanchipacha."
The students received training from
Light Up the World staff about the fundamentals of solar energy as well as
wiring conventions in Peru. They also
learned about the importance of safety,
maintainability, and sustainability of the
solar-panel system, which included batteries for energy storage and nine 5W lights.
Wong says the volunteers and Light Up
the World staff worked with Peruvian technicians to install the system. The process
took three days to complete.
In the Light Up the World system, DC current generated by the solar panels is used
to charge a pair of 150-ampere-hour batteries or fed through an inverter to immediately supply AC electricity to a set of
220-volt outlets. The outlets can power
lights and other things the villagers need-
which are mainly located in the community center and other shared spaces.
"When the installation was completed,
a ceremony was held," Wong says. "One
leader of the community spoke at the ceremony and said that he was grateful to us
for installing the system. The community
will use it for years to come."
The system will be maintained by trained
local technicians as well as Light Up the
World staff, Wong says.
HOW IT HELPED
The installation of the solar-panel system has positive environmental, economic, and social effects, Wong says.
As in many communities, Hanchipacha
was relying on one-time-use batteries
and kerosene lamps for lighting, he says.
Kerosene lamps have both health and
environmental risks. According to the
University of Calgary's Energy Education
website, the lamps emit carbon monoxide,
nitric oxide, and sulfur dioxide, which can
reduce lung function and increase the risk
of cancer. Also, according to researchers
at the University of California, Berkeley,
and the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, kerosene lamps are a more
significant source of black carbon than previously thought. Black carbon is a major
contributor to global warming.
Wong says that with the solar panels in
place, the community no longer faces the
health and environmental risks of kerosene
and avoids the financial burden of paying
for those lighting sources. The people
also have an opportunity to diversify
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