XelaTeco Saves Community Thousands in Electricity Bills

XelaTeco steps in a crucial time to help La Fe and Chantel communities with a micro-hydroelectric repair.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala – “Not again” is what the residents of La Fe and Chantel communities thought when their micro-hydroelectric system broke down for the umpteenth time this past June. Before Hurricane Stan in 2005, these 110 families had been one of the luckier campesino communities. When they obtained the rubber and coffee plantations with the help of the Land Trust Fund (Fondo de Tierra), they also inherited a functional 75 kilowatt hydroelectric system that could power their coffee processing.

Unfortunately the devastation of Stan nearly destroyed the hydroelectric machinery. The community managed to scrape together enough cash to hire a local machine shop for repairs, but the repair team’s lack of expertise with hydro systems resulted in a shoddy fix. In the next year and a half, the system had to be overhauled four additional times to keep it running.

One of those down times coincided with the peak of the coffee harvesting season in 2006. After harvest, the coffee cherries are stripped down to their bean and dried. It is an energy intensive process that involves washing, fermenting, depulping, pumping and drying.

It took the community 2 months to raise the necessary funds for repairs. As a stop-gap, they ran their machinery on electricity from the grid. Two month electricity bill: nearly Q30,000 (about $4000).

When the system failed again in June 2007, right before the start of the new harvesting season, the community members were worried. But this time they were in luck. The leaders of the community had just heard about XelaTeco from another community, Nueva Alianza.

XelaTeco repaired the La Fe and Chantel system, replacing essential components. A key part of the project was refurbishing the turbine, which had chunks eaten out of it from the 75 or so years of service. XelaTeco completed the job in time for the harvest for Q16,000, only slightly more than one month worth of grid electricity.

In the three months since the system has been back online, the overheating issues that had plagued it previously are gone. This is a welcome sign for the future of the system and the well-being of the community. The residents of La Fe and Chantel can now invest the money they would have had to spend on repairs on other infrastructure upgrades, such as improving the potable water system and extending the hydroelectric grid. At the moment only families living near the center of the community can obtain electricity.

Whenever they’re ready, they can count on XelaTeco.