NAIT and Light Up the World bring off-grid solar power and satellite internet to Peruvian village

Published on June 20, 2023

Staff and students from NAIT, along with members of the Calgary-based non-profit Light Up the World (LUTW), are celebrating after they successfully designed, installed and tested an off-grid solar plus energy storage system paired with satellite internet for a remote pre- and primary school complex in Pallccapampa, located high in the Peruvian Andes. 

The installation took place in early May and involved a team of 23 NAIT students, three NAIT instructors and five LUTW staff. Two visits to Pallccapampa were needed to complete the installation.  

The first team focused on installing an off-grid solar photovoltaic plus energy storage system in the community’s school complex to service both schools and serve as a central hub for the community. They were able to get the solar plus energy storage system operational and prepared the location for the second team to come in to finish the energy system installation and install the solar-powered wireless internet network and connection.  

The wireless internet portion of the project was led by a NAIT Wireless Systems Engineering Technology instructor and student team. Without having previously visited Pallccapampa, instructor Dr. Kevin Jacobson and second-year student Gavin Moses worked off satellite images, sketches of buildings and photos provided by LUTW staff to design the wireless internet system in a NAIT lab in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The final design was delivered to LUTW so that they could procure the components.  

The system installed in the community consists of a low-earth orbit satellite internet system and wireless internet access points throughout the pre-school and primary school complexes. Since there is no local technical expertise available, an important requirement was the provision of remote technical support and troubleshooting capability via a cloud-based network management tool, which NAIT staff and students were able to provide. 

While LUTW and NAIT have worked together since 2017 to install off-grid solar and energy storage systems in five other remote communities across the world, the 2023 trip marked the first time installing wireless internet. 

By installing the solar, storage and wireless internet systems, LUTW and NAIT are helping young learners in the Peruvian village make full use of laptops, computers and printers provided by the Peruvian government and access to web-based educational assets from around the world. 

Quick Facts 

  • The installation project was in the community of Pallccapampa in the Pilpichaca district of Peru, a remote community in the Andes
    • Approximately 100 people live in the village and surrounding area 
    • Approximately 24 students in the schools 
    • Pallccapampa is at 4330 m elevation, higher than the highest peak in Alberta (Mount Columbia is 3747 m) 
  • NAIT students applied the technical knowledge and skills they’ve obtained at NAIT to install 
    • An off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) system in a primary school: 
    • Wiring, light fixtures, and electrical outlets in a pre-school complex (three buildings) and a primary school complex (two buildings) 
    • A low-earth orbit satellite internet system, five WiFi access points to provide reliable wireless signal coverage throughout multiple schoolrooms, and a network router to connect components together 
  • Through remote monitoring, which is feasible because of the internet installation, NAIT staff can keep an eye on the system to ensure that the electrical system and internet continue to operate as expected with no issues 
  • Prior to the installation project, NAIT students took a 15-week Alternative Energy Technology course to gain skills in intercultural competency and communication, international project management, and risk identification and mitigation strategies – all valuable skills in today’s global marketplace 
  • This was the seventh off-grid solar energy system installation project that the NAIT Alternative Energy program has done with Light Up the World since our partnership began in 2017 
  • The NAIT aspect of this project is (co)funded by Global Skills Opportunity program, the Government of Canada’s Outbound Student Mobility Pilot program 


“With this experience, students put into practice, in a real-world situation, the knowledge and skills they learn at NAIT. By including students from different programs at NAIT, we were able to successfully bring clean electricity and satellite internet to the community of Pallccapampa. Students learn valuable intercultural competencies and global skills, preparing them for successful careers in the global marketplace and working with people from other cultures.” - Doug McFarlane, NAIT Alternative Energy Technology instructor and Peru project lead 

“By connecting this particular school to solar and storage technology, the team was able to take this to another level by connecting students, teachers and the local community to the world wide web using modern low earth orbit (LEO) satellite technology. Light Up the World is extremely proud to be a catalyst to opening another very large door to accessing technology we take for granted here in Canada. Access to electricity and the internet, has the power to improve the lives of members of the community in terms of access to education, which then has a ripple effect for generations to come.” - Michael Bate, Light Up the World’s Board Chair 

“The Peru project was a transformative journey, expanding my horizons and fostering personal and professional growth. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to adapt to diverse environments and establish meaningful connections across cultures. This experience instilled in me a deep sense of purpose, fueling my commitment to creating a more sustainable and equitable world through the power of energy and collaboration." - Paul Hingley, NAIT Construction Engineering Technology student 

“The teamwork demonstrated amongst NAIT and LUTW was unbelievable. To work in such a large group in unfamiliar conditions was proven to be challenging, but the team banded together to achieve the common goal of providing electricity and internet to the remote community of Pallccapampa” - Brooke Hynes, Alternative Energy Technology student 

“The exposure to a new culture while providing a remote community with electricity enhanced my world view on energy access, and applying my technical expertise from NAIT on an international level is what made this a really unique experience for me.” - Jules Gervais, Water and Wastewater Technician student 

“An absolutely life changing once in a lifetime experience for me personally. I would have never imagined I would be able to impact such a large amount of people so directly. This motivates me to continue working around the world to make similar impacts and make lives better around the world.” - Yonus Shaik, Bachelor of Business Administration student 

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