Casa Pueblo began working to transition to solar energy in 1999 with the installation of five panels at its headquarters. The exercise of transforming the energy system allowed the organization’s headquarters to become an energy oasis for the vulnerable communities of Adjuntas, during the Hurricane Maria emergency and in the following months, when families had no access to energy service.
This proposal focuses on the transition to clean and safe energy from production at the point of consumption, that is, on the rooftops of homes as a route to energy democracy. In this way, the residents of Adjuntas have the chance to enjoy the benefits of clean energy systems and begin to see what Puerto Rico could be like in the future if it focused its efforts on the sun as a primary fuel.
Technical characteristics of the proposal
Installation of more than 2,000 solar modules with independent storage systems and three solar microgrids (two in the urban center and the Casa Pueblo microgrid that includes Radio Casa Pueblo and the Solar Cinema).
The facilities are varied. For example, Casa Pueblo has installed 45 solar modules of 290 watts for an output of 13 kW with 38.4 kWh of lithium storage, while the urban microgrid array has 800 solar panels and, soon, with the installation of a megawatt of lithium storage. The cucubanos typically consist of six 300-watt panels, a 5,500-watt inverter with an integrated 100-amp controller and four gel batteries, for a total of 12 kilograms of backup. Grocery stores, hardware stores and others vary depending on energy demand.
Productive, community, environmental, or economic processes or activities that were positively impacted by the implementation of the community experience of TEJ.
The solar barber, from a monthly rate of $80, now pays the minimum $5, that is, the equivalent of 1.5 working days of his monthly workday. The ‘cucubanos’ solar houses have savings of $20-40 per month while some businesses in the municipality benefit from savings of more than $400 off their monthly bill by generating their own solar energy on their roofs.
For its part, the solar microgrid in the urban center will allow the local economy to retain about $60,000 per year. In addition, in times of storm or recurring centralized system outages, the avoided cost of purchasing fuel for electric generators also represents a significant economic impact as well as the prevention of food loss or disruption of home medical care.
Women’s participation in the TEJ community experience
Casa Pueblo’s effort has involved women in different stages of the process, from identifying needs and coordinating with the community, to decision making. They have also been involved in documenting the experiences and coordinating the installation process with Casa Pueblo’s collaborators and service providers.
Finally, women have been part of the process of installing solar panels in the village so that they can become familiar with the systems and learn how to replicate them in the future in other places. Of six installers, three were women. For more information see “Women and solar energy: stories of struggle in the mountains”.
Impact of the community experience of TEJ on public policy
They promoted net metering in 2007, were the first to interconnect to the grid, the Department of Housing is now promoting a version of solar “cucubanos” for disadvantaged populations, consulted by FEMA, HUD, the US Department of Energy, policies being developed by the federal Congress for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical system.