Project to Leverage Solar Power in Support of Rural Economic Development and Environmental Justice

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As part of its effort to empower rural communities and prevent their exploitation by corporate interests, nonprofit organization Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable (LiCore) A.C. launched a crowdfunding campaign last week aimed at galvanizing construction of one of Mexico’s first community-owned solar farms.

Entitled “Environmental Justice for Ucareo,” campaign organizers plan to raise $15,000 USD to construct the first phase of what will become a 100kW plant in the rural, fruit-producing community of Ucareo, Michoacán.

“The basic premise behind COOPEREN is that vulnerable communities shouldn’t be exploited or
displaced as countries like Mexico transition toward renewable energy,” said LiCore A.C. spokesman Paolo Cisneros. “We want solar, wind and other sources of green energy to empower rather than disenfranchise these communities.”

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COOPEREN — which is a shorthand for Renewable Rural Communities in Spanish — equips rural communities with renewable energy infrastructure and the ability to profit from the energy those systems produce. In each town, revenue is administered by a local nonprofit dedicated to investing in community projects. These projects can include infrastructure repair, social programming or anything else residents deem necessary.

In addition to providing clean energy for Mexicans across the country to consume, COOPEREN preempts attempts by monied interests to cash in on Mexico’s natural resources. This is especially urgent given Mexico’s tremendous potential for green energy generation. Recent federal data indicate Mexico is on track to produce some of the world’s cheapest solar power.

What’s more, the recent liberalization of the country’s previously-nationalized electricity market means a wide open field for companies interested in developing energy infrastructure. These factors reveal the urgency of building renewable energy development models that take into account the needs of vulnerable communities. Because these groups often lack the political and economic capital necessary to effectively advocate for their rights, they are at risk of being steamrolled by companies eager to capitalize on Mexico’s solar energy potential.

LiCore A.C. seeks to refine one such model through COOPEREN. Its Ucareo plant will serve as a technical proof-of-concept and generate the data necessary for LiCore A.C. and another organizations to plan and execute community energy projects throughout Mexico. In addition to providing providing a leg up for Ucareo, the ongoing crowdfunding campaign allows people from all of the world to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change.

“Climate change can feel abstract, even for people who are really concerned about it,” Cisneros said. “Part of our goal in launching this campaign is to provide people with an avenue to make a measurable difference in solving the climate crisis.”

Learn more about the campaign at: gofundme.com/cooperen

About LiCore A.C.: Founded in 2011, LiCore A.C. is a nonprofit based in Querétaro, Mexico. The organization works to promote Mexican innovation, primarily through the development of smart grid technologies. LiCore A.C. conceived of COOPEREN in order to create new platforms for community empowerment via emerging technologies.
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