To say I am excited is a bit of an understatement, but I’m not sure how else to phrase it.
Earlier last week we received confirmation that the global solar energy company SunEdison will donate the 1 kWp of solar modules required for our installation. WOW. After two months of outreach and communication with different contacts within various companies, I’m pinching myself over the fact that our project is being recognized (and supported) by a leading solar company. The financial value of the donation is meaningful, but the symbolic significance is much greater. SunEdison is amongst the largest installers of solar systems globally and well on its way to developing a strong, key market in Brazil. Their support for our project is significant on many levels. If you follow this blog regularly, you should be aware of the fact that solar energy is on the brink of exploding in Brazil. This donation not only confirms the potential of solar energy in this region, but demonstrates international recognition of the necessity to preserve the Amazon. Throughout our communications, I was very transparent about the project’s opposition to the accelerating development projects of the region. I’m not sure how the approval process for donations works, but our unwavering commitment to this principle must have played an influential role. This is SunEdison’s first donation in the Amazon region. The notion that there exists a preoccupation with the future of the Amazon outside of its own borders will carry heavy weight within Cabelo Seco, the city of Marabá, and hopefully the rest of the country.
Furthermore, this international support comes at a time when government support for a much-needed transformation in Brazil’s energy sector is seriously lacking. Dilma’s administration has chosen to switch on expensive thermoelectric plants to avoid blackouts in the southern regions of the country, where reservoirs have dipped into critical condition. Somehow, the reelected President maintains that there will be no energy rationing of any type in the long or short term. Can anyone trust those words in a drought-ridden country where power supply is determined by water supply?
I’ve done a bit of research into SunEdison as a result of this donation because I wanted to investigate the social side of their work. I was quite impressed. It seems like an interesting theme could take root within their social innovation sector, the idea of producing solar energy while saving water. I came across a 1 MW project they designed on the Narmada Canal in Gujarat, India. This innovative installation involved a thick panel assembly that hangs over the man-made canal and is connected to free floating barrels that move up and down with the water level. The panels prevent water evaporation and algae growth by blocking sunlight from entering the water, consequently saving millions of liters of water annually for the people of Gujarat. With our solar energy project, SunEdison once again creates a connection between solar power generation and water conservation, as we insist on the replacement of hydroelectric dams with solar panels.
In addition to discovering this interesting parallel, I was further impressed when I read about the three core beliefs that structure SunEdison’s business model.
- Only through collaboration with people from local communities can we achieve success.
- One of the best ways to ensure the success of these projects is to encourage entrepreneurship.
- There are no quick fixes- everyone must be in it for the long haul.
Aside from my personal connection with #3, these core beliefs rang very true to the insights I have gained over the past few months. My experience working with different organizations and partners on our solar energy project has reinforced the importance of developing a cultural literacy within the community one works with. It is clear that SunEdison recognizes this as a prerequisite to successful, sustainable projects. The fact that they display deeper ethical intentions and a commitment to long-term sustainability as a global leader makes this donation all the more significant.
Below are some photos from our most recent recording of the solar energy jingle. We created a new one that will be launched in the streets this week!