Kara Solar: A Solar-Powered Transportation System for the Amazon

Kara Solar aims to bring clean transportation to the Achuar in the Amazon rainforest.

A solar-powered boat transportation system has been designed that combines modern photovoltaic technology with traditional indigenous knowledge. 

Autor*in Terri Kafyeke, 05.11.17

Translation Terri Kafyeke:

A solar-powered boat transportation system has been designed that combines modern photovoltaic technology with traditional indigenous knowledge. 

A remote forested area at the border between Ecuador and Peru is home to an indigenous group known as the Achuar. They have lived there for centuries, but their lifestyle changed after the arrival of missionaries in the 1960s.

The Achuar commonly use motorboats for transportation, as their vast territory is crossed by several rivers. However, the use of fuel has become problematic. Not only is it expensive, but the noise of fuel-powered boat engines can scare away animals that are hunted by the Achuar. Not to mention the fact that the Amazon itself is the site of many controversial oil extraction projects, which often entail the destruction of natural biodiversity, the pollution of soil and water and the loss of ancestral lands lived on by generations by indigenous peoples. Constructing roads is also not a viable solution, as it would require deforesting parts of the lush rainforest.

Technology and Indigenous Knowledge

The Latin American Association for Alternative Development (ALDEA) has joined forces with the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador (NAE) to develop a new transportation system for the community. The result is the Kara Solar project, which aims to combine modern technology with indigenous knowledge.            

The result is a solar-powered boat called Tapiatpia. It is named after a giant electric eel that, according to an Achuar legend, transported animals on its back. A rather fitting name for an electric boat transporting people across the Amazon rainforest.

Tapiatpia’s two electric motors are powered by the sun, via the solar panels that cover the boat’s roof. The generated electricity is stored in lead-acid batteries at the back of the vessel. The hull of the boat, however, was based on traditional canoes from the region, as they outperformed other designs in simulations.

Kara Solar’s vision is not limited to the boat but rather includes a whole transportation system where the Achuar can be driven to school or the doctor with the solar boat. It should also be able to facilitate the delivery of food and generate employment.

Building a Clean Future for the Achuar

Kara Solar currently only has one prototype of the solar boat and the team is raising funds to build another boat, train local people and even create a micro-grid that will provide clean energy to the Achuar. If you wish to support them, head to their crowdfunding page.

Take a look at this video for more information:

No Rain? No Problem. How Fields Can Be Watered With Solar Power

In regions of Kenya where there is little rain, help with irrigation now comes from an unlikely source - the sun. Using SunCulture's solar powered irrigation systems, farmers in Kenya are able to do away with traditional petrol powered pumps, improve their yields and make significant savings too.

FirstVoices: The App That Allows Indigenous Peoples To Express Themselves Online

A new initiative developed by Canada's First Peoples' Cultural Council is making it easier for indigenous peoples to find their voice in the digital world.

RiverRide: A New Solar Cycle Path May Float Along Chicago River

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago wants to make his city the most bike-friendly city in the US. A new solar cycle path floating along the Chicago River may just help make his vision a reality.

InfoAmazonia: The Rainforest Goes Open Source

Tapping into the power of open data, a team based in Brazil has developed a set of interactive online maps that present a visual and graphic log of the environmental topics affecting the world's biggest tropical forest.

Keeping Indigenous Languages Alive in the Digital Age

How can you prevent certain languages from becoming extinct? One community in the Amazon is using crowdfunding and YouTube to help their quest.

Zip-lining through the Amazon with Google Street View

Google's latest street view project, developed in partnership with Brazilian NGO Fundação Amazonas Sustentável (FAS), allows users to virtually roam the Amazon Rainforest courtesy of a camera that is mounted on a zipline.