Aston University's Bio-Energy Research Group is part of a European team that will help expand renewable energy to rural communities in Latin America.
The team will set up two training platforms that can deliver knowledge and skills in bioenergy technology to enable rural communities in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil to generate renewable energy from existing resources more efficiently.
Led by CIRAD in Montpellier, France, European partners will co-operate with Latin American government agencies, research institutes and universities to co-ordinate a range of training activities in two major regions of Latin America: the Amazonian and Andes zones.
The training courses will adapt new technologies to local situations. In the Andes region of Peru, for example, many villages depend solely on diesel generators that provide very limited amounts of electricity. By combining two renewable energy technologies - solar thermal and energy from agro-residues - villages can generate unlimited renewable energy year round. While the resources are available, the missing ingredients are the skills and knowledge.
The Bio-Energy Research Group's experience in delivering training and education in bioenergy secured its place on the project. Aston will lead the design of the training platforms that will be delivered regionally by the University Federal of Para in Brazil and the Universidad Nacional Agraria de la Selva in Peru. Aston will also design training courses for university students and teachers and help the universities to set up a Masters degree in renewable energy technology.
Professor Tony Bridgwater, who leads the Bio-Energy Research Group at Aston University is excited by the project's promises: 'The tremendous advances that have been made in renewable energy in Europe now need to be applied to regions that have even greater need for a cheap and reliable local source of energy.'
Access to energy is widely seen as a key to alleviating poverty. The project, called Biomass Energy Platforms Implementation for Training in Latin America (BEPINET) is part of the EU's effort to achieve the UN Millenium Development Goals, particularly that of halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty by the year 2015.