The lights will come on later this summer at an isolated village in north-central Guatemala, thanks to the efforts of a just-named team of Colorado linemen, including United Power’s Kelly Snow. Kelly was part of a similar project in 2018. Hear him tell his story about the 2018 Energy Trail Project.
The Colorado Rural Electric Association selected 10 volunteer linemen and one alternate from its member electric cooperatives to prepare to electrify the mountainous village of Sillab, Guatemala, this August. The Colorado crew will join 10 linemen from electric co-ops in Oklahoma on a joint project coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic NRECA International Foundation.
“We’re excited to return to Guatemala on another CREA-sponsored project,” said CREA Executive Director Kent Singer. “Last year was the first time Colorado co-ops came together to sponsor a team of linemen to bring electricity to an area that has never had access to electricity before. It was a good experience for our crew and we were able to electrify two remote villages. This year, we have another team of outstanding co-op linemen willing to volunteer their time and expertise to bring much needed electricity to Sillab.”
The project site is in the department (state) of Alta Verapaz, near Guatemala’s border with Belize where villagers grow corn for themselves and generate some income from the production of cardamon seeds, peppers and coffee as well as a variety of spices.
The volunteers will spend three weeks building power lines along a 6 1/2-mile stretch of mountainous terrain where expected rainy weather, canyon crossings and steep hillsides will add to the challenge. Plans call for 60 poles and four transformers. Each of the 60 homes to be served will be equipped with four lightbulbs, four light switches and four electrical outlets.
The power lines will belong to a local utility, ADECORK (Associacion Para Desarollo Communitario Rax Kiche or Association for Community Development Rax Kiche). ADECORK will generate and distribute electric power to Sillab. The utility operates a small hydro power plant with a capacity of 75 kilowatts.
Colorado’s team members were selected through an application process and interviews with a committee of CREA staff members and two board members from CREA’s nonprofit Colorado Electric Educational Institute. Nine team members and one alternate were chosen. The 10th spot will be filled by CREA Director of Safety and Loss Control Dale Kishbaugh.
Volunteers selected for the project include: Jerid Bruna, Southeast Colorado Power Association, LaJunta; KJ Johnson, San Miguel Power Association, Ridgeway; Austin Maier, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, Fort Collins; Jason Matzke, Mountain View Electric Association, Limon/Falcon; Kenneth Murray, Mountain View Electric Association, Limon/Falcon; Jace Noe, Southeast Colorado Power Association, LaJunta; Rod Sherman, Holy Cross Energy, Glenwood Springs; Kelly Snow, United Power, Brighton; and Chris Stanworth, White River Electric Association, Meeker. Lucas Swoyer, Mountain View Electric, Limon/Falcon, was selected as the team alternate.
“We had a strong slate of applicants for the trip,” Singer said. “It is great to see how many of our co-op linemen were willing to leave their homes for so long to undertake such a grueling trip to help others in another country. This project will bring economic possibilities to these villages, as well as better access to education and enhanced safety and lifestyles.”
CREA is the statewide trade association for Colorado’s 22 electric distribution cooperatives and co-op power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.
NRECA International, an affiliate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has been working in developing countries since 1962. Today more than 300 member electric cooperatives support its work through monetary contributions, material donations and sending hundreds of electric co-op lineworkers and employees aboard as volunteers.