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'Green' on the go: Vancouver engineer travels third world promoting renewable energy

Apr 16, 2008 - Laura Mcvicker - The Columbian - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Vancouver, Wash. - During his overseas trips, Michel Maupoux sleeps on classroom floors, makes a bed in strangers' homes or takes a tent into a remote village. For days, he lives without electricity.

At the same time, he teaches villagers how to use solar energy to manufacture light or run water pumps -- to do the exact thing he promises to live without.

It's all in a days' work for Maupoux, a Vancouver resident and program manager for Green Empowerment, a Portland nonprofit organization that promotes and implements renewable energy sources in third-world countries.

The engineer takes several trips throughout the year to those countries, teaching engineers and villagers how to use renewable energy. His most recent three-week trip last month took him to Quito and El Coca, Ecuador.

In El Coca, he conducted a seminar for other engineers and villagers, and gave instructions on how to design solar water pumps. During presentations, he taught how to design, wire, operate and maintain a solar electrical system.

He even took a solar panel outside to show his students how electricity changes from different positioning in the sun.

Most of his students, engineers from throughout the country, already had solar energy projects.

"It was a matter of giving them details and answering questions for further use," he said.

In Quito, he taught more of the same to village technicians, focusing on how to design solar pumps and showing how they distribute water throughout villages. In many countries he visits, villagers have limited access to water and must visit streams miles away, he said.

"It's better for health. It's better for education," he said. "I enjoy being able to enable the country to do something they just allocated money for."