Pictured (L-R) above are Hydaker-Wheatlake employees who played a lead role in gathering materials for Michigan’s “Partners for Power” project in Guatemala: Craig Felos, Kevin Hills, Dan Nelson, Steve Hooker, and Rich Langworthy (not pictured).

A 40-foot container filled with transformers, fuse cutouts, wire, tooling and other hardware needed to bring electricity to the village of Buena Vista, Guatemala, was shipped on Aug. 20 by Wolverine Power Cooperative.

Weighing 18,000 pounds, the huge box is expected to arrive in Guatemala on Oct. 10 in readiness for the arrival of 12 Michigan electric co-op employees who will build the power distribution system in early November. “It actually will take seven weeks from the date the box was picked up to reach its final destination,” says Klint Weaver, a Wolverine project manager. “It has to be driven to Louisiana, where it goes through U.S. customs and waits until a container ship is available. Once it’s loaded on the ship, it takes several weeks to transport and then goes through Guatemalan customs.”

Some of the challenges to coordinating the materials needed for this unique project were the language barrier, and the short time table, Weaver adds. “By the time we received the material list we only had six to eight weeks to gather everything, manifest it, pack it, and be ready for shipment so that we could have the materials there in time for the project to begin.”

The supplies were donated by RESCO, Wolverine Power Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, and the Hydaker-Wheatlake Co. “Hydaker-Wheatlake also assisted with gathering, packaging, storing and loading the materials so we could get them shipped out in time for the project,” Weaver says. The total cost for materials and tools is about $48,000 and doesn’t include the shipping cost.

A briefing team staffed by Dan King, MECA safety instructor; Matt Monroe, Wolverine safety coordinator; Kevin Evans, Great Lakes engineering analyst; and Jim Carpenter, Cherryland Electric line superintendent traveled to Guatemala earlier this summer to inspect the site and assess the materials needed to build about 3 miles of primary and 1 mile of secondary line over the steep terrain. An eight-man crew from Great Lakes Energy, HomeWorks Tri-County, Cherryland Electric co-ops, alongside two members of the original briefing team, will return to Guatemala this fall to complete the project. Building these lines means battling harsh jungle conditions and traveling one-lane dirt roads to connect the new lines to an existing grid.

The team’s work means the people in this village will now have things like indoor plumbing and getting water without pumping it by hand from a well, King says. Electricity will also greatly benefit the local school, and give the people future options, such as building a medical facility.

The Michigan project’s theme is “Partners For Power,” a partnership with NRECA International Foundation, which has helped provide people in developing countries with access to safe, reliable, affordable electricity for over 45 years. Visit meca.coop to learn more about this special project and help “light the way” in Guatemala by making a donation (all funding for these programs comes from donations).