The situation post-Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is horrible and nearly unlivable. The Big Island is expected to be without electricity for months. People are waiting in lines all day for water, food, and other necessities, including filling up small, individual gas containers for fueling transportation and additional needs. Furthermore, the lack of power means that people requiring life-saving and -sustaining medication that must be refrigerated are especially vulnerable to the lack of power on the Island. But we have hope. Prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, members of the Jobos Bay Eco-Development Initiative (Iniciativa de Ecodesarrollo de Bahia de Jobos) were partnering with professors from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and from the US diaspora to create the first community-organized and -implemented solar community in all of Puerto Rico. The urgency for this project has never been greater.
WHAT YOUR DONATIONS SUPPORT
Your donations directly go toward paying for solar power infrastructure, which will enable much-needed refrigeration of medicines, offer electricity for daily necessities, and much more.
In 2016, the Puerto Rican legislature enacted a law to promote solar communities and microgrids, an action that benefits this community solar project. Donated funds will be used to purchase photovoltaic (PV) equipment for the El Coqui community center. In addition, we seek funds to convert the center into a solar-powered and off the grid model center using a roof top photovoltaic system (PV) including outdoor lighting.
This community-based development program emphasizes training and empowerment of residents, with special emphasis on community youth and children. Alternative models for ownership and administration currently are being discussed by community members. The renovation and expansion of the town’s community center includes the construction of a solar-powered modest computer center for the children and youth to do schoolwork, to study, and for tutoring sessions and for computer classes for residents and children who attend an annual summer camp. Ultimately, the objective is to benefit residents of El Coqui, a community that is polluted by two of the largest toxic emitters in Puerto Rico, AES corporation (a coal plant) and the Aguirre Power Complex.
To contextualize the precarious situation communities in Salinas and throughout the southeast find themselves in, we must be cognizant that this region has been known in Puerto Rico as the “hunger route.” In Salinas, 60.6% of the population lives in poverty with a median household income of $15,510. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 17 percent of people in the region self-identified as black, a percentage well above the 12.4 national average. The low-income communities in the Jobos Bay, located between Salinas and Guayama, have long sufferedfrom the pollution generated by two electricity-generating power plants as well as other industries located in their communities. These communities consume less of the energy that is produced in their backyards because they can’t afford the electricity bills, and yet they pay a high price with their health and the health of their environments. They are the most affected, and as we are witnessing in the aftermath of Hurricane María, the last to receive aid when they need it most.
Because these are frontline communities, they have been at the forefront of resisting injustice and devising solutions to the environmental problems that affect them. For instance, South Against Pollution, Comité Diálogo Ambiental, and IDEBAJO were at the forefront of the fight against the government-private industry plan to build a 700-million dollar AES coal-power plant on a wetland adjacent to the Jobos Bay dating back to 1998. Similarly, Comité Diálogo Ambientalhas been at the forefront of the fight against the irresponsible handling and disposal of the toxic coal-ash produced at AES, as well as trying to stop the Aguirre Offshore Gasport Project, a subsea liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline proposed in the Jobos Bay. The group has legally challenged smaller-scale threats to the health of coastal environments, such as mangrove forests deforestation for urban development. Looking for solutions and alternatives to dirty energy, IDEBAJO has been trying to bring the solar project Coquí Solarto fruition for nearly a decade. They work with precious few resources and rely on volunteer work in their struggle to safeguard their environment and to provide a healthier life for current and future generations.
We, Boricuas/Puerto Ricans in the US diaspora and in the Caribbean, are asking for your help!
Solar Energy in PR
Op-ed from Community Member Ruth "Tata" Santiago
Community Control and Collective Agency
PR Fossil Fuel Reliance and Contamination
Connections Between Debt and Energy Crises in PR
Energy History in Puerto Rico