Sustainable Favela Community third Annual Meet-Up, Half 5: Digital Excursions of Favela Photo voltaic Panels

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This is the fifth article in a series covering the events of the Sustainable Favela Network’s 3rd Annual Full Network Meet-Up, held online on November 7, 2020.

The Sustainable Favela Network (SFN) is a Catalytic Communities (CatComm) * project with the aim of building solidarity networks, increasing visibility and developing joint activities that support the expansion of community-level initiatives that promote ecological sustainability and social resilience strengthening in favelas in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro. The project started with the 2012 film Favela as a sustainable model, followed by mapping sustainability initiatives in favelas across Rio in 2017. In 2018 the program organized local exchanges between eight of the most established community programs, followed by the first annual meeting of the entire network in which the SFN was officially launched on November 10, 2018. In 2019 the program organized another round of exchanges – this time open to all SFN members and to the public – in five favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The activities in 2019 culminated in the 2nd annual full network meet-up. In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the SFN working groups continued to meet online and conducted a range of activities including support rounds (rondas afetivas), briefings, seminars, fundraising campaigns and a letter of commitment for political candidates and a debate with mayoral candidates. At the end of the year, the Sustainable Favela Network hosted its third annual full network meet-up, summarized below and in this series, with the aim of bringing the network together, promoting mutual strengthening of relationships between social environment organizers and the SFN’s activities for 2020 and plans for 2021.

Virtual tours to decentralized autonomous projects for sustainable energy

After the virtual tours organized by the Water and Wastewater Working Group, the Solar Energy Working Group of the Sustainable Favela Network invited the participants of the 3rd annual Full Network Meet-Up to virtually get to know some of the solar panel projects already installed in Rio’s favelas. during the event “Solar energy in favelas is reality: Tour of solar panels in Babilônia and Santa Marta.” Verônica Moura and Leonardo Luis Almeida da Silva from the Insolar project spoke directly from the Santa Marta Residents Association about the impact of the project on the residents and the Area itself. “[The project] was created together with the residents, ”explained Moura, adding that his first action in 2014 was a study conducted by the residents to identify places where solar panels could be installed.

Watch the Santa Marta solar panels live:


During the virtual tour, Moura filmed the lower part of her parish showing the solar panels installed at the Residents’ Association, a daycare center, a samba school, a family clinic and at the points of the parish funicular, commenting that it was in the there are more installations in the upper part of the community. Da Silva noted that on the tram route, the panels are used to provide a reflector and some USB ports for charging cell phones and other devices. Da Silva also featured devices that measure the amount of energy generated at the Residents Association, as well as the system’s online monitoring devices.

Da Silva explained that before the start of the Insolar project in Santa Marta he “didn’t have a job”, but thanks to the project he became an electrician and that today he “has the opportunity to implement photovoltaic systems at other companies”. He took part in Insolar’s first installer training course in 2016, a training course specifically for local residents interested in installing solar panels.

During their conversations, both emphasized the emancipatory value that renewable energies bring to the favelas: “You can see that it works … with clean energy you can even sell [the energy] That will be fascinating in the future, ”said Moura. “Our dream is that this will grow even more in our community, that I can have solar energy in my house and that it can expand to other communities.”

“It is very interesting to see that this is a reality,” commented Guilhereme Tavares of Liter of Light. “We really have to dream! Together we can go further. “

Élida Nascimento from the inclusion project in the municipality of Éden in the greater Rio de Janeiro area in the municipality of São João de Meriti asked how they had managed to install so many panels when the costs were so high. Moura and Da Silva made it clear that Insolar seeks funding for the moment it is installed, but that the equipment has a lifespan of around 25 years and therefore that lowering the monthly price of electricity bills will result in significant long-term savings. “It’s an investment that pays off,” said Da Silva.

Following the tour, Revolusolar from the municipality of Babilônia was given the floor. Adalberto Almeida, co-founder of the Revolusolar initiative, is the first to install solar modules in Brazilian favelas. “I didn’t believe that it was possible to get energy from solar panels. After we implemented the system, I saw that it was possible. “

Eduardo Ávila, the current executive director of Revolusolar, said the initiative was in the process of building the first favela-based solar cooperative in Brazil or anywhere in the world. “It is a model that we designed to be sustainable and reproducible in other communities in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, not only in favelas, but also in indigenous peoples and quilombola [communities] also.”

Watch Babilônia’s solar panels live:


Solar energy is an important source of employment for several communities. Ávila confirmed that the number of jobs created by solar energy is immense in Brazil (200,000) and that even during the pandemic, 40,000 jobs were created from solar energy across the country. Both Revolusolar and Insolar also commented on the still shy but significant presence of women in the community training courses for installers of photovoltaic modules.

When Ávila began the virtual tour, he reported that he unplugged his cell phone and moved towards the solar panel that powered that outlet. The public could see the panels of the Stars of Babilônia restaurant, installed with the help of Almeida. Ávila added that in addition to these solar panels, there is also a green roof that “adds thermal comfort to the building and increases the energy efficiency of the solar panels’ production”.

Almeida explained that in these twelve tablets it was, “where it all began … I am very moved by it because it is historical. I came from a region where I got to know electricity when I was 19. I came from the interior of northeast Brazil and am now faced with a system that I helped to shape. It is a pride for me to be a part of it. “

Hans Rauschmayer from Solarize Trainings, another member of the Solar Energy Working Group, contextualized the situation with the words: “The [energy] Licensees have always said that solar power is for rich people. Rich people put their panels on the roof and the poor have to pay for them [conventional] Energy network. However, we are at a time when solar energy is also becoming a technology for the poor and for society as a whole. “

Rauschmayer recalled that last year 40 organizations of the Sustainable Favela Network signed a document sent to the Brazilian national electricity agency ANEEL to defend the non-taxation of solar energy to keep this technology accessible and that the mobilization is having an impact on the national population was level. “This caused a surprise in February when Tiago Fraga from the BRD group called me and said: ‘Hans, we want to donate a solar system to a non-profit organization.'”

The solar energy working group quickly put together a project to install the modules at the NGO SER Alzira de Aleluia in Vidigal, with which the NGO can achieve monthly savings of R $ 300 (US $ 60). The installation had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but the project will be implemented as soon as possible. The working group also has an open form for other SFN initiatives that want to bring solar energy to their headquarters. These initiatives are invited to develop preliminary projects that are to be presented to the donors.

Many participants in the annual full network meet-up showed interest in working with the solar energy initiatives in the favelas, and Hans Rauschmayer concluded the activity with a celebration: “The sustainable favela network achieves so much, it’s amazing!”

See the entire event of guided tours through the SFN solar energy projects.

This is the fifth article in a series covering the events of the Sustainable Favela Network’s 3rd Annual Full Network Meet-Up, held online on November 7, 2020.

* The Sustainable Favela Network and RioOnWatch are both projects of Catalytic Communities (CatComm). The Sustainable Favela Network is supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation Brazil.

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