June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
14.379.1 - 14.379.17
Creating a Sustainable Energy Business in Rural Honduras
International service learning has become a significant component of many engineering education programs. Much of the work has been done as volunteer projects where a group of students and faculty go to another country and install some engineering project in a poor community. The students then go home and leave the local community to try to maintain it.
Many of these projects have a long term effect upon the student participants as they gain a perspective on the needs of the world. However, their impact on the local community they tried to serve can be much shorter in duration.
This paper describes our work in rural Honduras. Several years ago we started out by designing and installing a micro-hydroelectric system in a poor mountainous village. It began operations in 2007 in a village of about 50 homes. Although the villagers were trained in the general operation of the equipment, they were not trained well enough to operate a small business with it. Therefore, cash was not available to repair or maintain the system. We have, therefore, transitioned to a different working model that not only deploys equipment, but also provides a system of enterprise which helps the system operate as a financially sustainable venture.
During July and August of 2008, ten students and two faculty members worked for extended periods of time in Honduras. Part of the project was to create a pico-hydroelectric utility company in a village of 25 homes. A pico-hydroelectric system was deployed to generate electricity and a company was formed to collects fees from villagers, maintain the system, and prevent theft of electricity. These fees pay the salaries of three families to work for the company on a part-time basis. This local company will be a franchise. Part of their profits will be paid to the franchiser. The franchiser is a second, parent company, incorporated in the United States with operations in Honduras. Fees paid by the franchisee to the franchiser will allow another energy company to be created in a nearby village. We are in the beginning stages of the process, having formed only one franchise at this present time. Future papers will describe the results of this franchising.
This project can have a broader impact than just rural Honduras. The choice of franchising was made for rapid scalability. We can use the knowledge gained by creating these micro- hydroelectric systems in other developing countries. Cheap and clean electricity, along with local jobs, can help improve the health, education, and economic burden of rural people.
Our program of international involvement is a significant step in our goal to make service learning a larger component in our engineering program. This project is also one step in the process of expanding our research work in appropriate technology. We use the term
Jordan, W., & McGhee, R., & Thomas, B., & Lemus, E. (2009, June), Creating A Sustainable Energy Business In Rural Honduras Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5480
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