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There’s a peaceful revolution underway on the windswept high plains of Bolivia. It’s about gaining access to power – electrical power, that is. Small communities now have access to electricity for the first time through solar and wind power systems.
Rural residents like the indigenous Aymara community in Batallas face blistering winds, long dry spells, and intense sun without power or running water.
But a program brought forward by the Country Academics unit of the San Pablo Bolivian Catholic University is working to harness those very winds and the harsh sun.
Residents now have a source of renewable energy with which they can sustain themselves.
Technicians from the university have come to Batallas and other rural communities to teach the residents how to use the equipment and exploit the power of renewable energy sources.
One of the first things they brought was a water pump system that uses solar panels to power rechargeable batteries that then power the pump.
The water pulled from deep in the ground is then used for animals to drink and in irrigation projects in the high plains which are in a state of almost constant drought which has worsened in recent years.
But solar power is just the beginning says San Pablo Bolivian Catholic University engineer, Ricardo Ruis.
[Ricardo Ruis, Engineer, San Pablo Bolivian Catholic University]:
“Here we have a system that demonstrates renewable energy. There are various applications from photovoltaic, wind and anaerobic digestion systems. You were also able to see a concentrated solar thermal system up there. They are all applications of Renewable Energy.”
The technicians are training the locals to run the systems themselves.
Residents from other settlements in the area come, pad and pencil in hand, to gather the knowhow to help their communities live a more comfortable livelihood in a green and sustainable way.
And the knowledge is already being applied.
The water pulled from the solar water pump sustains a flourishing vegetable plot housed inside a solar tent that protects the plants from the harsh dry weather outside.
When the vegetables mature, community members wash and package them to sell in nearby markets.
Newly trained energy technician Vicente Laura says the systems will have far-reaching benefits.
[Vicente Laura, Aymara Community Technician]:
“It is going to change the lives of the people living in the country. They will no longer use [kerosene] lanterns and other energy [sources] that contaminate the environment.”
Solar energy is also being used in Batallas to heat water used to ferment cheese in a cheese factory.
Once the cheese matures it is stored in a solar powered refrigeration system before being sold in cities along with the vegetables.
Residents hope the next step will be solar-powered consumer goods like stereos and televisions.
[Valeriano Mamani, Peasant, Moko Moko Community]:
“Up until now we use [kerosene] lanterns for light. Niether the national nor local government think of us. I think the photovoltaic solution will help us all to have what they have in the city. The kids are going to watch television.”
In these remote parts of Bolivia, the solar systems appear incongruous against the ancient windswept landscape but their value in such places is undeniable.
Batallas is not the only community taking advantage of renewable energy.
Some fifty other rural towns are taking advantage of the renewable energy revolution on Bolivia’s high plains.
Duration : 0:3:37
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