Those of you who have spent long periods of time traveling can relate to the surreal state of mind that usually accompanies the first few days of returning home. It’s almost like your dreaming, except when you wake up the next morning it’s all still there.
This feeling greeted me, or rather slapped me in the face, when I returned home in December to freezing cold Connecticut. I stepped off the plane in a short-sleeved, MST t-shirt and flip flops, my hair a mess after a red eye flight, and went out for a very American breakfast with my lovely mother. After arriving in Marabá two nights ago, the feeling was back again. I never imagined I would see Cabelo Seco again after completing my independent study project here two years ago during a semester abroad. When I returned last September for a three-month collaboration with Rios de Encontro, I thought, okay this is it. And guess what… here I am again.
The past two months home in Connecticut marked the second out of a three-stage collaboration that this residency has become. As I stated previously, the solar panel installation became infeasible during the first phase of my residency for a mix of reasons including property insecurities, time constraints and slow bureaucratic approval processes. For this reason we completed the preliminary solar powered bici-radio project. We had some exciting coverage of this project thanks to Joilson Costa from the Energia Para a Vida campaign, who visited our project back in December, and Thiana Biondo from Global Voices. You can find the articles here and here. Anyway, we adapted our strategy to these challenges and now the plan is to have the system installed by the end of March. Over the past two months I had a mix of responsibilities, the most important of which was to see if I could secure the sponsorship of the components for this system. The future prospects of solar energy in Brazil and the ethical appeal of our project made for convincing incentives, but it was quite a task. These conversations are still in progress, so I won’t give away any details yet. We did take advantage of my geographic location by purchasing four heavy micro inverters for the system in the U.S., considering they cost a third of the price there compared to Brazil. And yes, I did find a TSA “Notice of Baggage Inspection” note in my luggage when I was unpacking.
In addition to moving the solar energy project forward, I have been working with the Creative Connections team to prepare for the International Young Performers Tour in April. You may recall from one of my first posts that Rios de Encontro was selected to travel to the U.S. to preform and give workshops in various schools throughout Fairfield and Westchester County. The group arrives on April 18th and will be traveling around doing exchanges with different schools for two weeks. They will also preform in Creative Connection’s annual fundraising Gala on April 26th. More updates on this coming soon…
Finally, there have been some significant movements on the Brazilian solar energy front that are worth mentioning. Power shortages loom in the distance as the country continues to suffer its worst drought in history. Reservoir levels are alarmingly low, the highly praised hydroelectric dams are producing nothing, and in response, fossil fuel utilities are being employed as a backup. I’m saddened by the Minister of Science’s ridiculous denial that climate change is real, but I’ve decide to overlook that disappointment for the moment as the government prepares a broad incentive program for solar PV. Discussions about tax reductions and incentives have been taking place since the end of last year, and it is projected that these federal tax exemptions could result in a 20% reduction in the cost of solar PV equipment in Brazil. Since the main barriers to the expansion of this industry are high taxes and lack of financing, these measures are a promising step in the right direction (Spatuzza 2015).
Spatuzza, Alexandre. February 9th, 2015. “Brazil set for rooftop solar push as hydro-dams run dry”. Recharge News. Retrieved from http://www.rechargenews.com/solar/1391109/brazil-set-for-rooftop-solar-push-as-hydro-dams-run-dry