Solar Photovoltaic and Wastewater Treatment Systems Design for Communities in Panamá

EPA Grant Number: SU833758
Title: Solar Photovoltaic and Wastewater Treatment Systems Design for Communities in Panamá
Investigators: Snurr, Randy , of Engineers for a Sustainable World, Northwestern Chapter
Institution: Northwestern University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: June 1, 2007 through May 31, 2009
Project Amount: $74,093
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2007) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


In collaboration with the Panamanian non-governmental organization Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), the Northwestern University chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW-NU) has been working with the rural ranching community of Santo Domingo (located in Chagres National Park of Panamá) for the last two years to develop and implement a sustainable source of energy. Concurrently, ESW-NU has been working with the community of Portobelo in Panamá to develop new designs to upgrade an existing ineffective community septic tank. With design work of the new system now complete, ESW-NU will work with the community to implement these designs.


To further develop the model of “implementation with education” through monitoring and expansion of existing photovoltaic systems in Chagres Park and through the implementation and monitoring of an improved wastewater treatment system in Portobelo.


The Phase II solar project will consist of monitoring and impact assessment of the existing system as well as expansion into other Chagres communities. Electrical data and observations collected by the community are submitted bi-monthly to ESW-NU via CEASPA.

The Phase II wastewater project will be completed over three trips. Trip teams 1 and 2 will modify the existing septic tank to increase sewage settling time and will implement a sludge drying bed and septic tank pump system. Trip team 3 will implement a lightweight media trickling filter and a sedimentation tank below the filter. During each trip, community education programs will take place to ensure sustainability of the system.

Expected Results:

Phase II of the solar project will focus on two more rural communities where battery charging station systems will be implemented. In addition, the information gathered through monitoring of Santo Domingo’s pilot photovoltaic system will be compiled into an encyclopedia of common problems and trends that will be passed on to these new project sites.

Completion of the Phase II project in Portobelo will result in a more effective community water treatment system. By improving water quality in Portobelo while educating the community about the importance of good water quality, the project will instill an ethic of community responsibility for individual and environmental health.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 5 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Central America, solar power, BOD, developing communities,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • P3 Phase I:

    Solar Photovoltaic System Design for a Remote Community in Panama  | Final Report