After a devastating earthquake in La Criba, El Salvador, in 2008 disrupted the town’s main water supply, leaving them with insufficient and contaminated water, the Colorado State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled there and installed a productive water distribution system and pump house to ensure that nearly all the homes and farms in La Criba could benefit from safe running water. This small, remote village is located about an hour from the capital in a remote area of the country, and despite the amazing addition of the pump, the town struggled to front the cost of running it regularly.
To lower the water bill and help offset the cost of the pump, Sandbox Solar and Engineers Without Borders recently returned to the pumphouse in La Criba to install a solar array on top of the building to offset the cost of the pump. Danny Weaver, Project Manager on the Sandbox Solar team, recently visited La Criba, leading the team in successfully installing a fully functioning system. This system will enable the town to run the pump on a more consistent basis, providing clean and safe drinking water they have been largely without since the earthquake.
Danny joined the Engineers Without Borders team to lend his solar installation expertise and to take the lead on engineering the project, procurement of supplies, and the ultimate construction of the array. The goal of the project was to reduce the overall cost associated with powering the pump so the villagers could use it on a regular basis for drinking water and crop production.
With the help of town residents and other Engineers Without Borders members, Danny was able to get the system up and running in under five days. The community was very involved, and despite multiple unexpected bumps in the road, everyone worked together to problem-solve and find a solution that ultimately worked well for the conditions.
Without a hardware store and the wide array of resources Danny is used to working with, he encountered many “Oh man, what do I do?” moments. Danny had to be creative and think on his feet to finish the project. “I had to change my plan multiple times to finish the job,” he says. “At one point, there was a need to redesign technical components of the system because they were incompatible with what the grid offered. The error codes I was getting could have meant a couple different things, and I didn’t have the time or means to try them all. I went with my best guess and decided to try separating the wiring.” Danny and the team had to head into the capitol, about an hour’s drive away, to get the parts they needed. He didn’t know if this solution would prove viable. With a little luck and ingenuity, the team was able to complete the system and get it up and running.
According to Danny, “It was an amazing amazing experience… It was life-changing. I have never been out of the country; this was my first time. At first it was a culture shock, but overall it was awesome. It was great to be involved in something that made a real difference for those people.”
For Danny, the best part of the trip was getting to know the people of La Criba. Despite communication barriers, Danny was able to connect with the villagers over the common goal of installing a functioning solar array, delicious meals, and time spent together after working hours. “They are just happy; the one thing you don’t have to translate is smiles and laughs – I don’t need a translator to tell me what a smile means.”
At Sandbox Solar, Danny has grown into the Project Management role from being an installer. He has been on the team just over a year and is continually thrilled with the work he gets to do in both the Northern Colorado community and the greater world – including this trip! “Solar is really cool. It’s definitely the wave of the future and I’m fascinated by it.” He goes on to say, “Within the developing world, this is literally life-changing. Energy is something we take for granted here. But there, solar doesn’t really exist and power isn’t guaranteed. Solar can be a lifeline to many of these communities like La Criba.”
Sandbox Solar is focused on building a strong local solar community in Northern Colorado, but a huge part of our core mission is to give back to communities all around the world. Our team is filled with people who share Danny’s sentiment: “I would go back just to see the people, honestly. If I got the chance to do another install trip like this one, I’d take it immediately.”
Sandbox Solar is proud to support many local, regional, and international solar projects to increase access to sustainable green energy. Click here to learn more about our work as your local Northern Colorado solar provider. Click on the pictures below to see more of the trip:
If you’re interested in learning more, watch this short video to hear more from Danny himself about the trip and the impact it made on him: