Electrifying Playa Blanca and exploring Peruvian desserts…

Posted on June 9, 2016 by Katherine Guo

It’s been about a week and a half since I arrived in Trujillo, Peru. From sanding blades at the workshop to having celebratory barbecues at the house, I have not had much time to reflect on our project, its impact, and my time in Peru, in general. Unfortunately, I am currently sick with a cold and could not make it to the workshop today, but this opened up some quiet space to finally think.

Sustainability is Key

I, along with two other Duke students Danielle and Aashna, are working with WindAid Institute to help electrify Playa Blanca, a rural community where most residents do not have access to electricity. Although efforts have been made by the government to install solar panels in the homes in Playa Blanca, the solar panels have been proven to be unreliable, as many of them have broken down and can no longer generate electricity. Therefore, with the support of the community, WindAid has stepped in and offered to provide wind turbines for any household that wants one. WindAid has already electrified 15 houses with wind turbines, and over the next few months, we will construct the components (blades, rotors, stators, etc.) and install two more wind turbines for two families.
When learning about what WindAid does, my first thought was: Since Playa Blanca is quite far from Trujillo (where WindAid’s workshop is), so what happens if the turbines break? How would they be maintained?

After talking to Jessica, our point of contact at and co-founder of WindAid Institute, she explained that a project was underway to create a workshop in Playa Blanca, as a centre for wind turbine maintenance, as well as a space for providing educational sessions to the community about the wind turbines. The community members are ever so passionate about being environmentally friendly and preserving their home, making them excited to learn about renewable energy and the nooks and crannies of the wind turbine. Hopefully, with a more permanent space for WindAid in Playa Blanca, community members would be able to gain enough knowledge about the wind turbines to eventually be able to maintain the turbines on their own.

Side Note: WindAid is currently seeking funds for the construction for this Community Wind Workshop, check out the campaign here

For me, sustainability is arguably the most important component to any service project. I want to ensure that the impact we are making will last longer than when WindAid completes their project in Playa Blanca. The development of the test center drew me the most to our project, and is going to be my main focus during my time with WindAid.

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Reading to attentive kids at Playa Blanca!

Workshoppin’

During the weekdays since I’ve arrived in Trujillo, we go to the workshop to make the different components of the wind turbine. What I’ve enjoyed most is that the people at WindAid really wants us to learn. For example, welding is a technique that serves to bind pieces of metals together. It involves lots of sparks, and I have to admit, I was pretty terrified of it in the beginning (and still may be a little bit). After a long day working with sparks and trying to weld, I was ready to call it a day, but Ross, one of the founders of WindAid, made sure that I would not leave that afternoon without welding the two pieces of metal together. Ross gave me a demonstration and some tips on how to get the flame going. Thereafter, I was successfully able to make the welds. I am very grateful that instead of asking someone who was already adept at welding to combine the two metals, Ross was determined to assure that I was able to weld and comfortable with it.

Aside from welding, I have been making the blades of the wind turbine smooth by sanding and adding filler, constructing the tail, and making coils for the stator. As all the different parts of the turbine reach their final stages, it’s exciting to finally start to the wind turbine come together!

This Saturday, we are going to Playa Blanca to actually install two wind turbines, one for a family and the other one to be used at the test center. During the time in Playa Blanca, I will be able to work on the sustainability aspect of the project, by creating lesson plans for the community, building paper airplanes or boats with kids in schools, and talking to community members to understand their thoughts and feelings about the wind turbines. Interacting with the community is what I am most looking forward to doing in Playa Blanca!

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Assembling the stator onto its structure in the workshop

 

Work Aside

Peru is also really fun! To start, the people here are really nice- although I don’t know much Spanish, Peruvians still try making conversation with me and are always smiling at me even when we cannot understand each other. From the past week, I have picked up some Spanish that helps me get by, including how to catch a taxi and the numbers to buy things at the bodega (small neighborhood store). Hopefully, by the end of this trip I am able to actually have conversations in Spanish so I can learn more about Peruvian life and culture.

In Trujillo, there is a beautiful beach town called Huanchaco, where we went the past two weekends to eat ceviche (citrus infused fish) or to just admire the surfers in the ocean.

Finally, I have been eating so much dessert here! From palmier cookies to three milk cakes, all the options are so delicious and cheap. Luckily, one of the WindAid workers loves desserts as much as I do (maybe even more) so he can be my guide to all desserts Peruvian.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for blog posts from Danielle and Aashna as well as more updates from me after we get back from Playa Blanca!

Hasta la vista,
Katherine

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Visiting the giant rock wall in Buenos Aires, Trujillo

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