Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Supporting renewable energy in Mexico

A guest post from my colleague Jason West about his work in Mexico:

While living in Mexico City a few years ago, I started the Solar Mexico initiative as a collaboration with the Mexican Foundation for Rural Development, a Mexican nonprofit, to support renewable energy projects in rural communities of Mexico which lack electricity and running water. In 2004, I installed five household solar electric systems, subsidized through private donations, which will continue to provide electricity for five Mexican families that earn less than $5 per day (see pictures, a pdf).

They are very basic household solar electric systems which provide families a few hours of electricity every night to run lights, a radio, or a small television. The system has a 35 Watt solar panel, and a battery which charges up each day for the families to use at night. Each system costs about $600, and we ask the families to pay 20% of that – given that the solar panels are expected to last for 25 years or more, it’s a pretty good deal. It was great to see families turn on electric lights in their own homes for the first time, and to see what a big improvement this can bring to their lives.

Now I am planning another trip to Mexico, at the end of January, and am trying to raise money. I hope to raise $1500 in December, which together with money already raised, will subsidize six household solar electric systems. Tax-deductible donations can be made on the Solar Mexico site.

I’ve also been interested in exploring other renewable technologies. I bought several flashlights that charge when you shake them, and those work well, but the families in Mexico complain that they are not very bright. I also worked with a non-profit in DC to arrange demonstrations of a solar “Hot Pot” cooker, which will cook food using only solar energy. This technology is an affordable way to avoid taking wood from the desert environment, while reducing labor and indoor smoke from cooking fires. The demonstrations apparently went well, and I hope to evaluate their use on this trip to Mexico, before subsidizing more demonstrations in other villages.


If you have any comments or ideas, you can contact Jason at solarmexico@yahoo.com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great idea - be nice to see this done in poor or rural areas of the US!