In remote communities along the Paraguay river, electricity is typically only available via generators and boated in diesel fuel, which is both dirty and expensive. This past summer, Juara sent a team of three engineering students from the University of Michigan to spend several weeks in the river community of São Lourenço and the Fazenda (ranch) Dois Coraçðes providing solar powered lanterns and a larger solar refrigerator system. Lanterns are important for both safety and access to reading and education, and refrigeration enables a safer and healthier diet. After initial installation, the team spent time better getting to know the people in these communities, teaching use and maintenance of the systems, and learning how to adjust the project to best meet local needs. We’ll be back on the Paraguay River in 2017 to study the use of these technologies over the past year, and to continue to expand access.
As a fun, experimental side project, we've converted our 1994 Volkswagen Kombi, Belezinha van to run on zero emissions, infinite miles per gallon solar power. The project doesn't use any of the Foundation's funds, only the rusted old parts lying around our friend Zeantonio's shop, a lot of electrical tape, and our personal resources and creativity.
Summer 2014 saw the installation of four 100W panels in the roof, removal of the gas engine, and mechanical and electrical adjustments to run the car directly off the starter motor. We only made it a couple hundred meters before burning out the starter motor, but it was success enough to come back in 2015 with an up to 20hp electric motor to do it for real!
Summer 2016, with larger batteries, redesigned motor mount, and a whole slew of new high-tech gauges (two voltmeters, a cheap cellphone and a meat thermometer) on the dashboard, Belezinha is crushing solar-powered speed records for the Poconé area, topping out at nearly 25mph! We've already put her into use driving kids to and from school and music lessons, and she will soon be seeing daily use as a school bus, and top end speed.
The Pantanal Partnership is a University of Michigan student organization, started in 2009, with a focus on education, healthcare, and sustainable technologies in the Brazilian Pantanal. Initially, students focused their energies on the construction of the Pantanal Center for Education and Research (PCER), and outfitting the facility with a solar power system, biosand water filtration system, wind turbines, and biodigesters. Since 2011, the Pantanal Partnership has led workshops in local schools and community centers on workshops for biosand water filters and English education. The workshops on biosand water filters emphasize the importance of clean drinking water, and provide interactive instruction for construction of the water filters, and have been led by students in local towns and remote river communities. Our English education program is overseen by Lecturer Melinda Matice of the University of Michigan's English Language Institute, and places students in schools, eco-tourism lodges, and orphanages for immersive language exchange.