After hurricane Maria, communities in Puerto Rico were facing one of the worst and most long-term blackouts in history. Residents of the town of Mariana got tired of waiting for the authorities to do something after living with no power for months and decided to take matters into their own hands. Anarchist organizer Christine Nieves founded Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo, one of dozens of cooperatives across the island creating their own solar grid. By the time the extremely too-little-too-late electric workers showed up, Mariana already had power for two months. They had already resupplied electricity to the area and built a locally owned and controlled micro-grid for the community.
Nieves’s group formed an alliance with the Katrina-inspired Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. MADR volunteers were already in Florida, helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. They pooled their money and solicited donations to purchase water purifiers, solar power equipment and plane tickets to the island. They worked with local construction workers, electricians and firefighters and overcame disastrous conditions to import a solar array, battery bank and storage container to protect all of the equipment from future storms.
The grid now powers a communal kitchen, a laundromat and an office, where residents can charge their electronics and tools. The system does not power homes, but its design is convenient and portable enough that it can be transported to where need is greatest. Now there are over a dozen mutual aid centers all throughout Puerto Rico.
Photo: "Mutual Aid" by Timothy Vollmer is licensed under CC BY 2.0