I had a work related project in Xela. This isn't a pro-blog about my work so I will just give a short overview of what I was doing.
Over 2.1 billion people live without electricity. Most of these people use kerosene lamps to provide light at night. The price of kerosene, like gas, is going up. It costs a family in Africa (or Guate) about $75.00 per year to light their houses. Cheaper and better is to use photovoltaics and LED, (light emitting diodes) lights. A house can be outfitted with a 20 watt PV panel, good quality nickel metal hydride batteries and (3) room lights using LEDs for less per year than the cost of kerosene. And that includes the cost of borrowing money at typical market rates. (This is a business opportunity for any eco-entrepreneurs out there!)
I was working with the Xela Teco workshop in Xela to make some prototype LED circuit boards. The big idea is this: LED lights are still pretty expensive, about $25.00 just for an LED replacement for a light bulb. If you make your own LED circuit on a pre made circuit board the cost is relatively small, about $2.50 - 3.50 per LED circuit board. The catch is that you have to design the circuit board and install all of the parts.
A NGO who provides services in very rural parts of the world can set up a workshop to make LED lights on pre-printed circuit boards, sell the service - light - and provide maintenance of the lights and photovoltaics as a profit making venture, given the right circumstances.
I, or we, (The Appropriate Technology Design Collaborative) are working on the design of a universal LED circuit board. It will work with almost any photovoltaic system and when made in a host country where rural use of kerosene lamps is common, it will cost less than kerosene.
The design of the LED circuit board will be published for anyone to use. Better, we expect to make thousands of the circuit boards and instructions available to any NGO who wants / needs to use them.
Anyway, I was trying to be short winded about this but as you may guess by now, I'm pretty excited about the project.
The Xela Teco workshop has engineers and the ability to prototype electronic circuits (+about anything you can imagine). Working with them was a pleasure. Plus I find it much more interesting to travel with some sort of project in mind VS travel just to be somewhere different.
At Xela Teco we worked out some of the potential bugs in the circuit board design, although much work needs to be done. My partner at Xela was Jose Ordonez who has a much deeper knowledge of electronics than I, and he was fun to work with. We started the project speaking mostly English but at the end I'd say we were speaking half English and half Spanish.
I have to catch the bus home, I will add more to this soon.
Also: After Xela, on to Tikal and Peten.