Solar Photovoltaic System Design for a Remote Community in Panama

EPA Grant Number: SU833172
Title: Solar Photovoltaic System Design for a Remote Community in Panama
Investigators: Snurr, Randy
Current Investigators: Snurr, Randy , Asthana, Ankur , Fitzpatrick, Joseph , Hohl, Elizabeth , Kessler, Jennie , Lai, Eric , MacDonald, Laura , Mikelonis, Anne , Padvoiskis, Julia , Samson, Mitchell
Institution: Northwestern University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 10, 2006 through June 20, 2007
Project Amount: $9,890
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Santo Domingo, Panama, is a rural town of 100, located in the Colon province within Chagres National Park. The town’s inhabitants are small-scale farmers and ranchers. The town is only accessible via rugged roads and has neither electric nor phone lines. Since the town is not connected to an electric grid, it meets its energy needs with wood, gas and car batteries. All electric appliances are powered with car batteries, which must also be carried out of the park and laboriously transported to Panama City to be recharged. Currently, car battery recharging is a major issue that dominates Santo Domingo’s needs. Taking into consideration the town’s challenging energy infrastructure, the introduction of sustainable and reliable sources of energy holds huge potential for improving the community’s standard of living.

The objective of this project is to design and help implement cost effective solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems that will meet the developing electrical needs of the community of Santo Domingo in a culturally sensitive manner. Cattle farming is the source of most of the community’s livelihood. In order to keep the cattle safe from wild jaguar attack, the community needs a reliable source of electricity to power their electric fences. By providing the community with local solar power, all of the emissions due to transporting the batteries are removed. Additionally, if the refrigerators and lights in the community were to be powered by solar electricity as opposed to kerosene and disposable batteries, more emissions would be removed and the community would become more energy independent.

The main partnership for this project is with CEASPA, an on-the-ground community development NGO. They have worked closely with the community for almost two years and will be essential in helping to implement the project and measure its success in social and cultural terms.

Upon successful implementation of this project, it will serve as an educational tool and example for similar communities in the vicinity and around the world. In passing on this knowledge to other students interested in sustainable development, to global sections of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and to similar developing communities around the world, a better understanding will be reached on how to create prosperity for both the planet and its people.

Supplemental Keywords:

Lead Acid, Sustainability, Integrated, Green, Alternative, Clean Technologies, Innovative Technology, Renewable, Environment, Public Good, Ecology, Climate, South America, Socio-Economic, Efficient,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, International, Environmental Engineering, Urban and Regional Planning, clean energy, sustainable development, clean technologies, environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, energy technology, solar energy, alternative energy source, emission reduction, photovoltaics

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Solar Photovoltaic and Wastewater Treatment Systems Design for Communities in Panamá  | 2007 Progress Report  | Final Report