In February 2014, GRID Alternatives and Power to the People led a trip to Nicaragua with volunteers from SunRun to install an off-grid photovoltaic system on a primary school in the community of Potrero Sur. Potrero Sur is a rural community located in Boaco, Nicaragua (90 kilometers northeast of the country’s capital). It is formed by three sectors: Limones, Zapotes and Limos. The primary school serves three additional communities outside of Potrero Sur: El Mango, La Palma and El Coyol. There are about 50 families and a total of 300 inhabitants in the community.
The community is located eight kilometers away from the electric grid. To charge cell phones, community members must walk this distance and pay C$10 (U$ 0.41) per charge. Many families use kerosene lamps or substitute kerosene for diesel, even if the family is aware that they are at risk for respiratory illnesses. For basic lighting, some families use two D alkaline batteries with two wires connected to a tiny light bulb from a flashlight. Although this system may not provide enough light for a room, families say that it is less dangerous and more economical than using a kerosene/diesel lamp. Families spend on average C$25-C$50 (U$1-2) every couple of months to replace these batteries, which is a lot less expensive than buying kerosene or diesel.