How This Small Town In Mexico Uses Solar Power For Economic Justice

Ucareo is a small town in Mexico that could be vulnerable to predatory energy companies looking for land to develop. They're taking steps to make sure energy generated in their area will go benefit the community first.


Aug. 18 2020, Updated 2:26 p.m. ET

The world has reached a tipping point for sources of renewable power, like wind and solar energy. This isn't just recognition of the effects climate change is having on the environment; on a practical level, a lot of this technology is much cheaper. That means many corporations are ready to invest in solar power, and where there is corporate interest, there is the potential for exploitation and harm.

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Building solar panels and wind panels requires land, and many companies are looking for areas that don't necessarily have much economic value. Rural areas, in particular, are vulnerable to land grabbing, which is harmful to the people living there. Inhabitat reports that one town in Mexico called Ucareo is experimenting with ways communities like theirs can protect themselves from predatory energy companies.

They've started a GoFundMe for a project called Cooperen, a community-owned solar power plant. In partnership with an organization called Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable, or LiCore, they're building 6.4-kilowatt peak preliminary solar plant that can then be sold to the national electric utility.

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Money earned through the project will be managed by a non-profit that will direct income towards other projects benefitting the town and its 2,000 residents. LiCore connected with the town through one of their engineers, Fortino Mendoza, a Ucareo native. One of their other employees, Paolo Cisneros, told Inhabitat that LiCore has been working hard to survey the town and figure out how best to partner with them.

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Cisneros said that they had imagined some of the money generated would go towards maintaining the infrastructure of the planet, but believe it can expand and contribute to "social programming, public awareness campaigns, or anything else…that is entirely up to the people of Ucareo."

He added that after all the interviews LiCore has conducted before launching the project, it 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.”

It's also something of an experiment. Cooperen is hoping to show that community owned energy production can work, and not only protect communities, but help them get even stronger.

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