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AEP & partners install solar internet connection in Bolivia
by Director de Porvenir
Village Power 2000 Team Bolivia Porvenir
source: Escuela Porvenir

Columbus, Ohio •• Dec. 5, 2000 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• Contact: Tom Ayres
Sr. Commun. Consultant
American Electric Power
614/223-1973

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AEP AND PARTNERS INSTALL SOLAR-POWERED INTERNET CONNECTION FOR REMOTE BOLIVIAN VILLAGE

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 4, 2000 – The Digital Divide that separates developed and developing countries has been bridged for Bolivian villagers deep in the Amazon region thanks to the efforts of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and a dozen private and public partners.

Villagers of Porvenir, Bolivia (www.porvenir.solarquest.com), have been communicating through the Internet since October on computers and a satellite connection powered by solar photovoltaic panels donated by AEP.

At a Village Power 2000 workshop today at the World Bank here, Paul Loeffelman, AEP manager of external environmental affairs who coordinated the effort, said the partnership acquired all materials and transported and assembled them in Porvenir. The village in northeastern Bolivia is 400 kilometers (km) from the nearest paved road and 650 km from the nearest computer store for replacement parts.

“Our team believes the system we built in Porvenir is the world’s first permanent solar-powered broadband Internet connection in a remote corner of the developing world,” Loeffelman said. “Our very dedicated partners’ pioneering effort accomplished this in fewer than 90 days. In August the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asked us to help lead the way in fulfilling the President’s July commitment at a G8 meeting of leading economic democracies to bring the tools of the Information Age to remote reaches of the globe.

“With the help of DOE, BP Amoco, New Visions Foundation, SolarQuest®, Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN) in Bolivia, International Consortium on Religion and Ecology (ICORE), Foundation for Environmental Education and other team members, we accomplished the task in late October. This is the first U.S. project by a private-public partnership under the G8 commitment. We are very pleased the White House Millenium Council has conferred Millennium status on our project as a model for others to follow in the 21st century.”

The project’s three primary teams concentrated on the power system, communications and education.

Information describing the Porvenir project and other public-private partnerships “to light up and link up the world” can be found at www.villagepower2000.org.

Prior to the solar photovoltaic system now in place, electricity for Porvenir’s 600 villagers and six-room schoolhouse was available only when fuel was on hand for a generator that powered a single 75-watt bulb in each of the 100 homes. Now, the 2,500-watt solar power system and 16 storage batteries provide electricity for lighting for adult and children’s classes, three computers, a satellite receiver/sender for broadband Internet access, a refrigerator/freezer for medicine and vaccines and AEP’s Datapult energy monitor which will show how the solar panels are performing and the electricity is being used on AEP’s web site, www.aep.com/environmental/solar. BPAmoco and the Foundation for Environmental Education provided financing for the equipment. Audipac, Bax Global and Challenge Air Cargo transported tons of equipment from around the U.S. to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where FAN loaded it into four-wheel-drive trucks for the two-day journey into the rain forest.

Forty-eight solar power panels from AEP’s Wind and Solar Research Park at Fort Davis, Texas, were used by New Mexico State University under contract to AEP to engineer the power system. Trace Engineering donated the inverter. With funding from AEP and the New Visions Foundation, SolarQuest and ICORE designed and installed the STMI Wireless satellite system and taught the villagers how to use and maintain the technology, empowering the villagers to communicate with the world. FAN also helped with installation and training.

The schoolchildren and villagers of Porvenir have established an Internet dialogue and language arts partnership with Bluffsview Elementary School in Worthington, Ohio, a Columbus suburb using SolarQuest’s Virtual Schoolhouse. Bluffsview school, which has a strong Spanish language program, was AEP’s first Learning from Light school. Porvenir joins 70 other Learning from Light! (see www.aep.com/environmental) schools in a hands-on solar power educational program to teach students and the public worldwide about energy from the sun.

At the meeting in Washington today, Loeffelman read from one of the first e-mail messages from Porvenir. It was from Arnoldo Saucedo, elected community leader of the village, and Ivar Vaca, president of the regional indigenous organization of villages. They described the region’s tradition of extracting and depleting resources and the transition his village is making to sustainable development. "Now, we are participating in the Climate Action Project as one of the communities which neighbors the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. The Project has been a great benefit to us,” they said. “We have received important training which makes possible the strengthening of our organizations and the sustainable use of our remaining natural resources. We have developed management plans for our forests, and we are studying the fishing potential of our river.

”We have received the donation of the equipment and training which allows us access to the Internet via satellite, opening many possibilities in the world of education and sustainable development.”

The Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project (www.noelkempff.com) was undertaken in 1996 by AEP, the U.S. and Bolivian governments, FAN, The Nature Conservancy, BP Amoco and PacifiCorp to protect 4 million acres of tropical forest in the park for at least 30 years. The project captures and stores carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and works with communities in and around the park to establish sustainable economies.

American Electric Power is a multinational energy company based in Columbus, Ohio. AEP owns and operates more than 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity, making it one of America’s largest generators of electricity. The company is also a leading wholesale energy marketer and trader, ranking second in the U.S. in electricity volume. AEP provides retail electricity to more than 9 million customers worldwide and has more than $35 billion in assets, primarily in the U.S. with holdings in select international markets. Wholly owned subsidiaries are involved in power engineering and construction services, energy management and telecommunications.

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News releases and other information about AEP can be read on www.aep.com.
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