The Cooperativa de Energía de San Salvador, Pirucho Coop., is seeking to continue the development of the San Salvador solar community, in Caguas, while celebrating the great achievement of self-management and community empowerment reached last week when the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB)announced that the Public Service Regulatory Board-certified it as a renewable energy cooperative.
“The community is proud, and we are barely reacting. The process to get here has been intense and hopeful. We started from scratch, not knowing what a cooperative was, how to start a local electricity company with permits, and without money. For the community it has been like a miracle. We share our story for those who think that something like this is not possible, if you don’t have resources; if there is community commitment, it can be achieved. Now we are going to analyze the steps to follow, which include adding 10 additional houses to the solar community, currently made up of eight residences, to see how we continue to grow ”, said Feliciano Rodríguez Domínguez, secretary of the Board of Directors of Pirucho Coop.
Pirucho Coop. will provide the eight residences with power generation services, using solar energy, along with energy storage systems. The systems are made up of solar panels, a battery, an inverter, an isolating switch, and a meter. Maintenance will be provided by SunSol LLC. The main source of energy will be renewable, and they will maintain the fossil energy of the Electric Power Authority as a backup source. The final goal of the cooperative is to achieve a solar community of 450 residences, of the 730 that make up the community. To do this, they call on the cooperative sector and investors to be part of this community self-management project that contributes to energy saving and the preservation of the ecological footprint.
The project to create a solar community arose from the vicissitudes caused by eight months without electricity, due to the aftermath of Hurricane María. The first thing the Organized Community of San Salvador organization did, after analyzing and projecting its goal, was to try to attract investors from the United States to be part of this development; however, the efforts did not bear fruit. They then chose to educate themselves on the benefits of establishing themselves as a cooperative and set out on the path hand in hand with Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico. The vision was to have a robust system that was owned by the community, and that the community itself could manage it, and that by doing so, the cooperative could lay the foundations for the establishment of a local micro-enterprise for the installation and maintenance of the systems. solar. Thus, they embarked on the ambitious journey, and on the trip they found the support of the FCPR, which already had a history of strategic projects to access solar energy in the communities, in response to the aftermath of Hurricane María.
“Fundación Comunitaria has two virtues that we will always be grateful for. On the one hand, it has offered unconditional and direct collaboration, and has not replaced the decision-making process or local community leadership. It has always been clear that it is there to support the decisions of the community, and not to substitute for that. And secondly, the financial contribution that allowed the launch of this first phase, otherwise it would not have been possible. Added to that is legal and technical advice. This is the first solar energy cooperative, but Fundación Comunitaria had already done work in support of other communities such as Toro Negro (the first solar community to own and administer the system) and Esperanza Village (the first microgrid certified by Puerto Rico Energy Bureau). And what they have learned they have shared with us”, said Rodríguez Domínguez.
The portfolio of solar energy projects in the FCPR also includes 37 primary health centers, six community aqueducts, a hydroponics center, three mobile renewable energy systems, 30 residences in Loíza and 5 community resilience centers. On the other hand, the FCPR has a solar energy access project in Culebra, and another that provides the infrastructure that would give access to this renewable energy source to the island’s 240 community aqueducts. In addition, he is part of a team promoted by the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation and Resilient Power Puerto Rico, for the development of the Puerto Rico Community Energy Resilience Fund. And it is carrying out a feasibility study, co-financed with Fundación Segarra Boermane Hijos Inc., to explore the potential of a Community Energy Corridor in the Central Zone of Puerto Rico.
“Fundación Comunitaria celebrates together with the community of San Salvador this historic milestone that comes from the very heart of the community and that is a reflection of the possibilities of self-management and community empowerment in Puerto Rico, which opens the way to other communities. All of this is possible thanks to donors, mostly community and private foundations in the United States, who have trusted in Puerto Rico so that, from the communities, sustainable transformations can be achieved in the long term. And they have relied on the FCPR as the philanthropic facilitator to achieve this. This demonstrates that this king of projects is possible. We only need philanthropic and social investors to allow us to continue promoting and supporting projects like these ”, mentioned Dr. Nelson I. Colón Tarrats, president and CEO.