Small Mexican town seeks social justice with innovative solar power project

January 24, 2018 by  
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Solar power prices have been plummeting in Mexico , which is good news for renewable energy advocates but potentially bad news for indigenous people . Much of the land suited for solar or wind projects is owned by rural communities that have historically been marginalized, according to Paolo Cisneros of Mexican organization Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable (LiCore). They’re at risk of exploitation from corporate interests. The residents of Ucareo, with around 2,000 residents , have a potential answer. Working with LiCore, they’re raising money for COOPEREN , a community-owned solar project that could offer a model for social and environmental justice . LiCore engineer Fortino Mendoza, a Ucareo native, established the relationship between the community and LiCore. They’re raising money for the community solar effort, COOPEREN, on GoFundMe . With the money they aim to build a solar plant generating power to be sold to the national electric utility. The residents of Ucareo can then use the money for different projects; a nonprofit organization is to be established for managing the solar farm and income. Related: Coming soon: NYC’s first community solar project Cisneros told Inhabitat they’d envisioned the money being used for infrastructure repairs, “but it can just as easily go toward social programming, public awareness campaigns, or anything else…that is entirely up to the people of Ucareo.” He said LiCore has hosted outreach sessions, one-on-one interviews, and other efforts with residents to make sure the nonprofit organization “is truly representative of the community and that everyone who wants to get involved has opportunities to do so. We’re doing everything we can to avoid a situation in which this group becomes hijacked by an particular sub-set of the community.” They aim to raise $15,000 on GoFundMe for a 6.4 kilowatt peak preliminary solar plant. Cisneros told Inhabitat one concern they had was how to ensure people could feel confident their money would indeed go to good use. He said, “Truth be told, GoFundMe doesn’t have a way of policing how people spend the money they raise. In response, we’ve committed to maintaining a really active dialogue with our donors. They receive monthly updates on the project and periodic opportunities to take part in live Q&A sessions with our staff. We also detail our work pretty actively on social media…We want everyone who donates to feel like active participants in the project.” And community energy projects are fairly common in America and Europe, but were only just legalized in Mexico, per the GoFundMe page, so it’s difficult for communities to secure bank loans for the projects. On the crowdfunding campaign page the team says, “We plan to prove the technical and social viability of this project in Ucareo, thereby making it easier for other Mexican communities to secure financing for community energy projects of their own.” You can find out more on the COOPEREN GoFundMe page . + COOPEREN GoFundMe + Laboratorio de Investigación en Control Reconfigurable Images via Depositphotos and courtesy of Sascha Nadja Ringlstetter

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Small Mexican town seeks social justice with innovative solar power project

This Puget Sound eco cabin is made almost entirely from reclaimed materials

January 24, 2018 by  
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Activist and artist Anna Hoover collaborated with architect Les Eerkes from Olson Kundig Architects to build the Scavenger Hut – a beautiful, low-impact cabin hidden in the idyllic landscape of the Puget Sound. The design for the 693-square-foot compact cabin called for both affordability and sustainability. Accordingly, it was built using mostly reclaimed materials and leaves a minimal footprint thanks to a unique six-foot raised foundation. When artist and activist Anna Hoover was considering the cabin’s design , she was looking for something simple and rustic that would be a “thought refuge, a room with a view to sit and contemplate future projects and reflect on recent travels and interactions, plenty of ‘headspace’—tall ceilings—and the ability to host other artists for studio time,” she explained. Related: These minimalist prefab cabins are designed for human “recharging” Enter architect Les Eerkes, who designed the project while at Olson Kundig . Working with Hoover, Eerkes designed an eco-friendly timber cabin that would be a simple, but elegant space to encourage thoughtful contemplation. Even better, Eerkes came up with a plan to build the structure for less than $200 per square foot. To cut costs, the cabin was built with glued laminated timber . The exterior facade is clad in T1-11 plywood, which Hoover charred herself using a Weed Dragon Torch. Additionally, the six columns that support the cabin not only reduce the structure’s footprint, but also added an affordable way to avoid excavation and labor costs that come with laying a concrete foundation. The majority of the building materials – and even the plants – were reclaimed from homes and buildings slated for demolition. “The process of reclaiming these plants and items and giving them a new life and home is fulfilling on many levels,” Hoover says. “Easier on the pocketbook and the environment—and you receive the benefit of a good workout.” The interior is a light-filled space, flooded with natural light thanks to an abundance of windows. The kitchen and living room are on the ground floor topped with a sleeping loft. Along with the salvaged kitchen cabinets, the interior is a hodge-podge of reclaimed materials. A hot-rolled steel staircase leads to the loft where floor-to-ceiling windows give stunning views of the surrounding forest. The room even has a drop-down door that opens completely to further blend the space into its surroundings. + Les Eerkes Via Dwell

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This Puget Sound eco cabin is made almost entirely from reclaimed materials

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