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MPE Lineman Headed to Guatemala to Help Electrify Villages

MPE Lead Lineman Nate Towne uses a hot stick during a high-voltage safety demonstration
PHOTO: MPE Lead Lineman Nate Towne uses a hot stick during a high-voltage safety demonstration


The Colorado Rural Electric Association has selected a group of seven volunteer lineworkers from Colorado, including Mountain Parks Electric Lead Lineman Nate Towne, to electrify remote communities in northwestern Guatemala this fall.


Towne and the rest of the Colorado crew will join lineworkers from co-ops in Oklahoma on a joint project coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s philanthropic NRECA International Foundation.


“I am really looking forward to this trip,” said Towne. “Electric co-ops are all about providing an essential service, improving the quality of life and helping communities. That’s what we do here day in and day out at Mountain Parks Electric. That’s what we hope to accomplish this fall in Guatemala.”


Towne and his counterparts will build power lines in the village of Pie del Cerro and, potentially, in neighboring Tierra Blanca Salinas. Both communities are located far from larger population areas near a rain forest in the Ixcan region, close to the Mexican border. Collectively, the communities have about 100 households, five churches, two elementary schools and two health centers — all without access to reliable and affordable electricity. The local residents live in small one or two room homes without running water, refrigeration or the use of electronic appliances for household chores or business services. Farming is the local industry; they produce corn, beans, cardamom seeds, cocoa and vegetables.


A local utility, Empresa Municipal Rural de Electricidad, based in Playa Grande, Ixcan, will maintain the power lines once they are built. The project will consist of 130 poles and two transformers on 4.34 miles of primary line and 3.86 miles of secondary line. Most of the terrain will be flat, but about 1 mile of line will be built through dense rain forest growth. Each home will receive at least two lightbulbs and two electrical outlets.


“While I know we’ll be helping the people of Pie del Cerro,” Towne added, “I suspect one of the takeaways that I will have from this experience is to see firsthand how fortunate we are to live here in north central Colorado where the inconveniences of living without electricity rarely cross our minds.”

Mountain Parks Electric is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric provider. MPE’s service territory is located in north central Colorado, including all of Grand and Jackson Counties, and parts of Routt, Summit and Larimer Counties. Headquartered in Granby, Colorado, MPE was established in 1946 and delivers electric service to more than 20,000 meters. MPE’s power supply is 30 percent renewable and includes hydroelectric generation from the Granby Dam, the Town of Grand Lake’s micro-hydro recovery system and the Williams Fork Dam. It also includes more than 100 smaller net-metered solar generation sites.

The NRECA International Foundation has brought electricity to more than 126 million people in 43 developing countries. It designs and implements successful, sustainable, scalable rural electrification programs that improve education, healthcare, safety and economic opportunity.

CREA is the statewide trade association for Colorado’s 22 electric cooperatives and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

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