GRID Alternatives and Sempra Foundation partner to bring solar systems to Juntas de Neji Community
Persistence, diligence, and trust-building; a titanic effort of early mornings and late nights spent on roofs trying to avoid the sweltering summer heat; the reward of turning on a light that’s powered by that same hot sun. This, in short, is the story of the solar system installation GRID Alternatives led over the last year for and with the Juntas de Neji indigenous community in Baja California, Mexico. In the end, this project enabled energy sovereignty for a community that needed it, thanks to a generous grant from Sempra Foundation, that allowed the systems to be built.
GRID Mexico team, along with five apprentices from Tijuana’s Technological University, installed 30 solar systems, including ten refrigerators, in the remote, northernmost indigenous community in Baja California. This project benefitted around 200 community members by providing reliable access to electricity and refrigeration, and saved them money on gas used to drive to buy ice, which was the only form of refrigeration that the community had previously.
Gustavo Valdez, GRID’s Mexico Project Manager, describes the unusual days and circumstances of the mid-summer installation, “We started at 4:30am to beat the sun and around 10am we had to get off the roof because of the heat haze that made it difficult to see and even pass tools. It’s a safety thing too, we need to keep people hydrated.” After the morning shift, a shower or maybe a nap under the oak tree to cool off, before picking up again at 4pm when the heat died down a little. The days wound down with the setting sun, and a team-building game in the home that the community generously shared with the installation team.
Each day brought new and unexpected challenges. The refrigerators, which had been tested in cooler temperatures, needed system upgrades because of higher temperatures in homes made of cement. Nevertheless, the team persisted, returning day in and day out. Today, 20 homes and one school use the power of the sun to do everyday tasks; from late night homework sessions for the children in the community, to power for basic appliances like tools and lamps. All in all, a great win for the Juntas de Neji community and a testament to GRID’s commitment to make the sun for everyone.