U.S. Renewable Energy Program Helps Farmers in Mexico

More than 400 renewable energy projects have been installed in 14 states of Mexico, as a result of a program launched in 1994 by the U.S. Department of Energy.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – The Mexico Renewable Energy Program was established by DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories. To date, it has resulted in the installation of 250 solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind-powered water-pumping systems, as well as 150 other renewable energy projects. Sandia has expanded its efforts to bring the benefits of solar and wind power to more of rural Mexico through new joint programs with the Mexican government, renewable energy suppliers in the U.S. and Mexico, universities and other partners. One effort, the Renewable Energy for Agriculture program managed by FIRCO, an agency of the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, is expected to bring as many as 1,200 new PV systems and 55 wind systems to isolated areas of Mexico during the next five years. The systems will be used primarily for water pumping, but some may be adapted for other uses that improve the economic, social, and health standards in agricultural areas of the country. “These programs seek to improve the economies of some of the poorest areas of rural Mexico by increasing the profitability of small ranches while also promoting the use of renewable energy technology, reducing pollution from fuel-powered generators, and broadening the renewable energy market outside the U.S.,” explains program manager Michael Ross of Sandia. “It benefits everyone involved.” As part of the expanded programs, Sandia’s renewable energy technology experts are helping to write specifications for standardized renewable energy systems, installing some of the systems, training local officials and users to operate and maintain the systems, and designing new applications for renewable energy systems. “The ultimate goal is to make the use of renewable energy systems in Mexico widespread and self-sustaining,” adds Ross. “When Sandia is finished, there will be people scattered throughout Mexico who will have the capabilities to do this.” FIRCO plans awareness and training workshops in all 32 Mexican states. Its Renewable Energy for Agriculture program receives $31 million in loans and grants from the World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility, the Mexican government and end users. It is part of Mexico’s Alianza para el Campo program for improve agricultural productivity. Support for Sandia’s involvement comes from DOE and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Sandia and FIRCO signed a five-year collaborative agreement in Mexico City in August, specifying how the two organizations will implement the program. “Energy availability is an element of national security,” says Margie Tatro of Sandia’s Energy & Transportation Security Center. “If people throughout the world have access to reliable, nonpolluting, affordable forms of energy, they are more likely to have prosperous existences.” “When I’m in Mexico, I see the effect this technology is having on the lives of people who probably haven’t had electricity in their lifetimes,” adds Ross. “That’s the type of reward I cannot get by just sitting in my office.” Sandia is operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin for the U.S. DOE. It maintains facilities in Albuquerque and Livermore, California.

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