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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Adjuntas community becomes model for local redevelopment through solar power

Back in February, the transformation process in the Alto de Cuba sector of Adjuntas began with the installation of 204 solar panels that provide a combined solar power of 60 kilowatts with batteries.

By The Star Staff

A grassroots movement has transformed the historic Alto de Cuba sector in Adjuntas into a model project for alternative local redevelopment.

The effort has resulted in the solar energization of 30 residences, the Sharon Cedeño grocery store, the installation of solar lighting in alleys and shared spaces, the painting of a mural that highlights the history of the community, and the total reconstruction of the home of Magda Báez, a resident who has lived under a blue awning since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017.

Located in the center of the Adjuntas with a population of almost one hundred inhabitants -- including 19 minors and 19 older adults -- the community has a high prevalence of diseases such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and thyroid disorders. The families live primarily in humble structures.

After a dialogue process between community leaders and Casa Pueblo leaders, on Feb. 14, the area’s transformation process began with the installation of 204 solar panels that provide a combined solar power of 60 kilowatts with batteries. In turn, the residents worked on their social organization structure. They agreed to self-impose a monthly fee to create a collective emergency fund.

The grocery store now has a grid-connected system with 24 400-watt monocrystalline modules, 12 250-amp sealed batteries, and a 15-kilowatt inverter. The store’s electricity bill was reduced from $400 to $5 per month, allowing it to contribute a large amount to the emergency fund and cushion price inflation to benefit the community.

Sharon Cedeño, its owner, no longer thinks about closing her business. Instead, she diversified her inventory with meats and ice cream, which she had stopped offering because energy instability caused her merchandise to be lost with some regularity.

Meanwhile, 30 Alto de Cuba houses were solarized with six photovoltaic panels, four batteries that provide a reserve of 12 kilowatts, and a 5,000-watt inverter. Families are receiving reductions in their bills of about 50%, which means savings for each family ranging from $20 and $40 per month. The adjoining company Sol de la Montaña was in charge of the installation and provides maintenance of the photovoltaic systems.

This collaborative project included direct support from New York-based Let’s Share the Sun, the donation of all solar panels by the Honnold Foundation, the environmental organization Censat Agua Viva de Colombia, and the Hispanic Federation.

The project is part of an energy “insurrection” promoted by Casa Pueblo to build energy independence and climate adaptation, recognizing energy as a human right for everyone and not just for those who can afford or finance a photovoltaic system.

Casa Pueblo, in consultation with numerous civic and philanthropic organizations, has carried out more than 400 solar energy projects in urban and rural areas of Adjuntas since Hurricane Maria: 140 houses in communities, six grocery stores, three hardware stores, two restaurants, a barbershop, the La Misericordia home for older adults, fire stations and medical emergency centers, among many other sites.

During the next few weeks, officials will complete the Adjuntas Pueblo Solar microgrid by installing a one-megawatt battery.

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