Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Solar Missionary' Works On Systems Worldwide

For League City’s “solar missionary,” the initial decision was easy.
A team raises a pole with a solar panel at a school in Honduras in the state of La Paz

Terri MacGregor could apply her graduate degree in electrical engineering toward a good living, optimizing the performance of ink-jet printers in Kentucky — or she could travel the Third World, designing, constructing and erecting solar systems for schools, orphanages, clinics and chapels in places that were far, far off the grid.

Those are places where MacGregor would be the only blonde, female engineer most of her clients would ever see.

She could stay and tune printer parameters in air-conditioned comfort or work from dusk to dawn under primitive conditions, setting up water wells that could use the sun’s energy to provide up to 6,000 gallons of safe water daily for a small, rural settlement.

Her purple-and-gold Sonlight polo shirt telegraphed the choice she joyfully made three years and 14 special assignments ago as she sat down to describe some of what she has experienced abroad including Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Often she brings the first reliable power into a remote location.

“We often go beyond the grid,” she said. “Bringing power to medical clinics so that they can run their equipment and to schools so that they can have lights, fans and DVD players. Anything that uses electricity can run on one of our solar installations.”

The finished projects range in output from 300 watts to several kilowatts. Even the smaller setups are enough for a notebook computer, lights or a few fans.

All the panels are now pole-mounted arrangements — this after one missionary fell through the corrugated roof of a building and was nearly killed. It turned out that few rural roofs were sturdy enough for the fairly hefty silicon and glass panels or their installers.

The groups she travels with accept both nontechnical American and village volunteers. No special training is necessary for those helping because MacGregor supplies all the technical know-how for each customized installation.

As her technical team works to pull power from the sky, a parallel group of Spanish-speaking missionaries works on religious and educational projects.

“We use a dual-team approach,” she said.

Some evangelicals take their message to the big cities of Central and South America, but the teams MacGregor has traveled with have ventured into backcountry the Christian message had yet to reach.

“There are some very indigenous people in rural Mexico who were still practicing the Mayan religion, but without the (human) sacrifice,” she said. “We had the opportunity to bring them and their children the message of Christ.”

MacGregor also has a dual role in spreading the gospel. In addition to her electrical missions, she’s also a Texas church planter. Along with her husband, Sutton MacGregor, she helped start Seabrook’s Ethos Church at 2900 E. NASA Parkway.

Even though MacGregor is often far afield, there’s one given at almost every solar installation she does, regardless of denomination, language, youth or old age.

“The first thing everyone wants to do is charge their cellphones,” she said. “Everyone, everywhere charges cellphones.”


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