BUENOS AIRES — Believe it or not, one third of Argentinians live in poverty. Among many challenges for impoverished families is paying an electric bill; however, some communities aren’t even on an electrical grid. With a little ingenuity, the Argentinian non-governmental organization (NGO) Sumando Energias has made electricity a moot point when it comes to access to hot water.
Countries with high rates of poverty can lack the economic mobility to extend their electrical grids. When impoverished citizens are unwilling to pay electrical bills, they often resort to stealing electricity; yes, it is much easier to tap into electrical grids than one might imagine. This loss of revenue stunts grid expansion.
Garin, Argentina is one of numerous communities excluded from an electrical grid, meaning hot water, among other desirable commodities, is unavailable.
Sumando Energias (“Combining Energias”) has created a solar-powered hot water heater to provide hot water day and night to residents of villages like Garin. The NGO works alongside locals to build their panels on site.
The full hot water system consists of an array of leftover cans, bottles and cartons, piping to carry water, and an insulated storage tank. The recycled containers are painted black and connected to form rows of tubes. The small grid is connected around the edges by piping that runs from a nearby water tank into the insulated storage tank.
This homemade solar panel can then be mounted on top of a structure such as an outdoor shower. The sun heats beats down on the tubes and heats the water which then flows into the storage tank.
This is the quintessential killing of two birds with one stone. While communities find innovative ways to make up for the absence of an electrical grid, they instill citizens with recycling practices favorable to the future of their surrounding environment.
Helping the Community & Vice Versa
Evelyn, a 12-year-old girl who helped Sumando Energias assemble a panel for her house and 23 others, said, “we’re…going to keep collecting…cartons, cans and Styrofoam, because now we know they have a use.” She also expressed her desire to continue volunteering with Sumando Energias in the future.
In addition to improving environmental and human rights, Sumando Energias also offers training sessions so members of communities can make more panels or share their skills with surrounding communities. One panel only takes a couple hours to assemble with the correct materials, skills and dedicated craftsmen.
Sumando Energias ultimately works to empower locals to help themselves and their surrounding environment. The NGO’s goal is to foster the construction of 3,000 solar panels a year. In 2005, Buenos Aires reflected the shift in recycling habits when it became the first Latin American City to vote for a Zero Waste policy. Most noteworthy, however, is that Sumando Energias is redefining the implications of poverty.
– Sophie Nunnally