Solar power prices have been plummeting in Mexico, which is good news for renewable energy advocates but potentially bad news for indigenous people. Much of the land suited for solar or wind projects is owned by rural communities that have historically been marginalized, according to Paolo Cisneros of Mexican organization Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable (LiCore). They’re at risk of exploitation from corporate interests, but the roughly 2,000 residents of Ucareo have a potential solution. Working with LiCore, they’re raising money for COOPEREN, a community-owned solar project that could offer a model for social and environmental justice.
LiCore engineer Fortino Mendoza, a Ucareo native, established the relationship between the community and LiCore. They’re raising money for the community solar effort, COOPEREN, on GoFundMe. With the money, they aim to build a solar plant generating power to be sold to the national electric utility. The residents of Ucareo can then use the money for different projects; a nonprofit organization is to be established for managing the solar farm and income.
Cisneros told Inhabitat they’d envisioned the money being used for infrastructure repairs, “but it can just as easily go toward social programming, public awareness campaigns, or anything else…that is entirely up to the people of Ucareo.”
He said LiCore has hosted outreach sessions, one-on-one interviews, and other efforts with residents to make sure the nonprofit organization “is truly representative of the community and that everyone who wants to get involved has opportunities to do so. We’re doing everything we can to avoid a situation in which this group becomes hijacked by a particular subset of the community.”
They aim to raise $15,000 on GoFundMe for a 6.4-kilowatt peak preliminary solar plant. Cisneros told Inhabitat one concern they had was how to ensure people could feel confident their money would indeed go to good use. He said, “Truth be told, GoFundMe doesn’t have a way of policing how people spend the money they raise. In response, we’ve committed to maintaining a really active dialogue with our donors. They receive monthly updates on the project and periodic opportunities to take part in live Q&A sessions with our staff. We also detail our work pretty actively on social media…We want everyone who donates to feel like active participants in the project.”
And community energy projects are fairly common in America and Europe but were only just legalized in Mexico, per the GoFundMe page, so it’s difficult for communities to secure bank loans for the projects. On the crowdfunding campaign page, the team says, “We plan to prove the technical and social viability of this project in Ucareo, thereby making it easier for other Mexican communities to secure financing for community energy projects of their own.”
You can find out more on the COOPEREN GoFundMe page.
Images via Depositphotos and courtesy of Sascha Nadja Ringlstetter