Sunday, March 23, 2008

Solar Service for Salvador

During spring break, I traveled to El Salvador for a service trip. While there, I visited a poor village where I helped construct brick homes. However, that mode of service is not the only one that I performed.

Among the other students who traveled to El Salvador with me, two were mechanical engineers. This fact was widely known throughout the group, and the group leaders even publicized it to the El Salvadorans in charge of the construction service project. As a result, an "engineers meeting" was called which included me and the other mechanical engineers; the El Salvadoran designers were not going to pass up an opportunity to listen to the insight of college-educated engineering students.

Although I could help very little regarding the structural aspects of constructing brick homes, the topic of solar power came up, which is my specialty! The village is interested in implementing a solar-powered method of cooling its fruits and vegetables. I talked with the head El Salvadoran designer for a good bit of time (with the help of a bilingual student who acted as our translator!) about the proposed solar project and offered what knowledge I could. However, I told the designer that I would get back to him with further information after returning to the United States.

With extensive government support necessary for America to implement solar power, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for poverty-stricken countries to do so without some sort of discount. The El Salvadoran designer to whom I spoke was mostly concerned with the cost of solar power, and I quickly realized that the only numbers I could give him were subsidized. However, due to El Salvador's close proximity to the equator, I am sure that the country's solar insolation would be enough to make solar power an economical and worthwhile investment. Upon further research, I hope not to discover that the village is unable to implement solar power for purely economical reasons.

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