Remote Amazon Communities are Becoming Solar Powered.
Thanks to a longstanding federal program in Brazil, remote communities in Brazil are able to power themselves with solar energy.
In the remote communities of the Amazon Rainforest, electricity is a luxury that only recently has been made available. For years, off-grid communities in Brazil have relied on candlelight to read and write, and refrigeration was something that many had never experienced before. That changed when diesel-electric generators began popping up in some communities, however, those generators came at a significant cost.
Diesel markups are common and high, as the distance to provide said fuel is significant. This means that energy is intermittent, with interruptions to leisure and family activities as well as to businesses and communications. However, with the help of the federal government, this is changing. Solar panels are being adopted in these remote locations, with the energy generated being clean, less noisy, and consistent. Though this change is positive and gaining traction in Brazil, there are significant challenges that still need to be addressed.
Solar energy in the Amazon has many benefits, the main ones being that it is sturdy, reliable and does not require continual maintenance by the users. Another would be that it is low impact, not requiring deforestation, unlike power transmission lines which need this devastating action in the Amazon, which already has a deforestation crisis. The efforts to provide clean, renewable energy to these communities are being led by the federal government, and since 2000 three major programs have been implemented to help solve electricity insecurity in remote areas.
According to official figures, 16 million people have benefited from the programs. With easy access to energy, opportunities that would otherwise have been unthinkable have now been rendered easily accessible for many who wouldn’t dare dream of them. For example, small businesses that would have had to go into the cities and developed areas to access energy can stay and expand in their own communities. This helps to develop the local economy and provide better lives for their own people in their own communities. This program and its benefits haven’t come without their fair share of challenges, however. Unfortunately, these problems need to be addressed for clean energy to become the mainstay for people in remote areas of Brazil.
One of the major issues with solar energy in the Amazon is the lack of education for local individuals in these communities. In some communities, nobody has been trained for the basic maintenance of solar systems, and it is challenging and time-consuming to address technical issues as they come up. Energisa, one of the electrical companies installing solar panels, has been working on training locals to maintain them. Still, for many, they rely on teams coming into the communities to fix the panels if they go down, which is timely and expensive.
There is also the problem of solar panels and the climate cost required to create them, as the mining and purifying of the minerals required to create solar panels can damage the environment and the people manufacturing them.
A possible solution would be the side-by-side integration of biofuel generators and solar energy, which could be powered by local agricultural production of beans and corn. This would be a no-waste solution that could help lessen the dependence on solar energy and would still benefit the environment. There is also the problem of food insecurity, and a comprehensive solution would need to be implemented as soon as possible. Many Amazonian people continue to go hungry in the dark. Is going hungry in the light any better?
Despite these challenges, this model for green energy generation is incredibly promising and is being implemented in many countries worldwide. Solar energy recently in Brazil took second place for most energy generated, toppling wind power, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon.