Solar Powered in Roatán

We helped the Polo’s Water Association secure funding to install solar panels on their wastewater treatment plant, reducing their energy consumption by about 80% each month.

The Polo’s Water Association’s wastewater treatment plant in Roatán, Honduras is responsible for keeping nearly 30 million gallons of raw sewage out of West End’s coastal environment each year—sewage that would otherwise harm coral reefs and pose a threat to human health.

Over the last few years, we’ve helped the West End community connect 284 homes to the once-defunct wastewater treatment plant. We also helped Polo’s to install water meters and create a pay-per-use fee to help cover the operating costs of the treatment plant. Our work has led to a 95% reduction in fecal bacteria in the nearshore waters, and local beaches in West End now pass clean water standards that they weren’t able to pass before.

But many of the homes in West End—the ones that help support the operating costs of the wastewater treatment plant—are vacation homes. So, when COVID-19 hit and travel was suspended, those homes were essentially vacant and no longer using water and sewage services or paying their fees. The Polo’s Water Association was faced with a 70% reduction in revenue.

Most of their operational budget goes toward powering the wastewater treatment plant, and without the extra revenue, the treatment plant was at risk of having to slow down, or even shut down operations. That would have had devastating effects on coral reefs and human health.

In April, we reached out to the Bently Foundation, longtime supporters of our water quality work in Honduras, and were able to secure a grant of nearly $50,000 to help Polo’s cover their operating expenses for three months. And to help make the impact last longer, we asked for an additional $65,000 to install solar panels on the treatment plant to reduce their operating costs long-term.

The Bently Foundation graciously obliged, and by October, the Polo’s Water Association had installed an additional 62 solar panels on the wastewater treatment plant, reducing their daytime energy consumption by 80%. This summer, when solar radiation reaches a peak, they’ll see a 70% reduction in their monthly operating expenses.

The financial support we received not only helped save West End’s water quality and coral reefs, but it also directly benefitted 23 local families who are involved in the treatment plant’s operations, monitoring, roofing, and solar panel installation and rely on the treatment plant for income.

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