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August 31, 2020: Ben Kormos, on the Brazil Global Grant Partnership.

Steve Rickard introduced our speaker, Ben Kormos. Ben has a long list of accomplishments as a lawyer, a Rotarian and an individual. Brazil became his passion after a Rotary exchange. He is the “champion of the cause” for the Global Grant Making Clean Energy in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil.

Ben had many of the Grant contacts with him today – Steve and Marie Rickard, Nelson Leite, Past DG, and Sebastiao Vidigal from the Rotary club in Brazil. Other supporters include Gail Williams for her sage advice on how to bring the Global Grant to fruition. Also, his wife for moral support.

Ben sees this as his life-work. Starting in 2016, he has gradually done more and offered more to help the people of Brazil, especially students. The latest project offers expanded opportunities to learn a skill, a lower education cost to the student that leads to certification upon completion making the students more employable. To establish a described self-sustaining Making Clean Energy educational project, under a Global Grant. This will, in turn, serve as an exemplar to Rotarians globally. It started with a 40-page project document – light reading, I’m sure!

There are five Rotary clubs involved, both locally and internationally, four educational institutions, and 210 students are directly benefiting with 840 families benefiting indirectly. The students are between the ages of 16-30 years looking for those who are impoverished, needing a helping hand up. Target group includes girls who are interested in STEM.

With a growing population in the area and a growing use of solar panels, the need was established. The project touches on most of the UN’s Areas of Focus. Total project cost is $88,704 USD funded by Ben himself, other Rotary clubs, plus matching dollars from the government of Canada, District 4760 in Brazil, and the Rotary Foundation. It is those matching dollars that leverage the original donations three or four times over.

The Global Grant was submitted in January, 2020, and, after TRF approval, the project is well underway. The project will span two education years, or four semesters, be self-sustaining and have an intrinsic impact over multiple generations. Twenty photovoltaic (PV) energy plants have been delivered and are operational in the four educational institutions offering the courses. The timing was right to allow for the pre-pandemic exchange rate for the materials. However, due to Covid-19, the classes have had to be postponed. The target date is late 2020, or early 2021, to resume classes. Fingers crossed!

Ben is willing to share as little or as much of his presentation, if you are interested. Get in touch with Bill or Ben.

Answers to Questions:

  1. Due to the penetration of solar energy, has the government offered any subsidy?
    The government currently subsidizes by granting the right to connect to the grid and not pay for the grid. This will change in the future to having to charge for PV installation as the price of PV installation is low; return on investment is low; and expansion is rapid.
  2. Is there a risk of destruction of the panels from hurricanes?
    Brazil is not subject to hurricanes. Strong winds, yes, but they are not a danger. The supplier will replace the panels if damaged, but this is not expected to happen.
  3. Where are the PV panels made?
    They are manufactured in China. A plant in Brazil and one in Canada also make them by copying China’s technology.
  4. What is the expected life of the panels?
    25 years
Bill closed by thanking all the presenters.

Here is a video to watch. You can see an English see a transcript by clicking the YouTube link:

reported by Judy Cochran

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