Mexican Village Wants to Turn Thermoelectric Plant into Solar Panel Factory

The Central Combined Cycle Plant, located in the Nahua indigenous farming community of Huexca, in central Mexico, is practically ready to operate, but local inhabitants managed to block its completion because of the pollution it could cause, and they want to use the facility to open a solar panel factory. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Central Combined Cycle Plant, located in the Nahua
indigenous farming community of Huexca, in central Mexico, is
practically ready to operate, but local inhabitants managed to
block its completion because of the pollution it could cause, and
they want to use the facility to open a solar panel factory.
Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
YECAPIXTLA, Mexico, Feb 1 2019 (IPS)

Social organisations in the central Mexican municipality of
Yecapixtla managed to halt the construction of a large
thermoelectric plant in the town and are now designing a project to
convert the installation into a solar panel factory, which would
bring the area socioeconomic and environmental dividends.

Antonio Sarmiento, from the Institute of Mathematics of the
National Autonomous University of Mexico, outlined the idea when
the state-run Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) launched the
construction of the
Morelos Integral Project
(PIM), which consists of a gas and
steam generating plant, a gas pipeline that crosses the states of
Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, and an aqueduct.

“The plant can be reconverted. There are alternative uses. It
can generate significant economic development in the region and
make energy change possible,” the expert told IPS, estimating
that an investment of some 260 million dollars would be needed.”We
don’t want the thermoelectric plant to operate, because it’s going
to cause irreparable damage. If the solar plant is viable, go
ahead. Or they could turn it into a university, so our children
don’t have to travel long distances to study and be exposed to
violent crime. Something worthwhile should be installed.” —
Teresa Castellanos

Sarmiento calculates that the use of half of the area of the
Central Combined Cycle Power Plant, which covers 49 hectares in the
community of Huexca and has a capacity of 620 megawatts (MW), would
permit the installation of solar panels, the planting of crops
under the panels, and a factory to produce them.

“Agrophotovoltaic technology” takes advantage of the water
that condenses on the panels, which drips onto the crops below,
before it can evaporate – technology that is already used in
Germany and other nations. In addition, farmers can use
solar-powered irrigation pumps to access water from wells.

For this area of solar cells, with a useful life of 25 years,
the generation would total 359 MW-hour per day, which would meet
the consumption needs of 34,278 households. The electricity
generated would supply the municipality and replace energy from
fossil fuel-powered plants, the academic explained.

Huexca, home to the thermoelectric plant that is no longer being
built, about 100 kilometers south of Mexico City, has some 1,000
inhabitants, mostly Nahua Indians, part of the total 52,000 people
living in Yecapixtla.

The transformation would reduce gas consumption, methane
leakage, massive use of water, the generation of liquid waste and
the release into the atmosphere of nitrous oxide, which causes acid
rain that contaminates the soil and destroys crops.

The local struggle

By means of several judicial injunctions, the People’s Front in Defence of
Land and Water in Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala
and its ally,
the Permanent Assembly of the Peoples of Morelos (APPM), have
blocked the completion of the power plant and 12-kilometer
aqueduct, as well as the start of operations of the 171-kilometer
gas pipeline.

Huexca and other Nahua peasant communities, through legal action
brought at the start of the construction of the power plant in
2012, managed to stop construction of the pipeline in 2017 for
violating indigenous rights.

In addition, groups of “ejidatarios” – people who live on
“ejidos” or rural property held communally under a system of
land tenure that combines communal ownership with individual use
– blocked the extraction of water from the nearby Cuautla River
to cool the turbines of the plant in 2015, and the People’s Front
secured, early this year, the suspension of the discharge of
treated water into the river.

On Jan. 28, a group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Central Combined Cycle Power Plant in Huexca, a village in the municipality of Yecapixtla, Morelos state in central Mexico. Their signs call for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to betray his people, and to keep the plant from opening. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

On Jan. 28, a group of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the
Central Combined Cycle Power Plant in Huexca, a village in the
municipality of Yecapixtla, Morelos state in central Mexico. Their
signs call for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador not to
betray his people, and to keep the plant from opening. Credit:
Emilio Godoy/IPS

Opponents of the power plant also resorted to protests and
roadblocks to bring to a halt a project that affects more than
900,000 people, including 50,000 indigenous people from 37
indigenous tribes, according to a 2018 estimate by the autonomous
governmental
National Human Rights Commission
.

Now, they want leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador,
who took office on Dec. 1, to cancel the Morelos Integral Project
and reach an agreement with the local population on the fate of the
plant.

“We don’t want the thermoelectric plant to operate, because
it’s going to cause irreparable damage. If the solar plant is
viable, go ahead. Or they could turn it into a university, so our
children don’t have to travel long distances to study and expose
themselves to violent crime. Something worthwhile should be
installed,” activist Teresa Castellanos told IPS.

Castellanos, a member of the APPM, has been involved in the
battle against the plant from the beginning, which has earned her
persecution and threats. For her activism, she won the Prize for
Women’s Creativity in Rural Life 2018, awarded by the
Geneva-based non-governmental Women’s World Summit
Foundation.

The opposition to the plant by the affected communities, who
make a living growing corn, beans, squash and tomatoes and raising
cattle and pigs, focuses on the lack of consultation, the threat to
their crops due to the extraction of water from the rivers, and the
dumping of liquid waste.

Mexico’s energy outlook

In the first half of 2018, Mexico had a total installed capacity
of 75,918 MW, of which 23,874 MW come from clean technologies. The
capacity of clean sources grew almost 12 percent with respect to
the first half of the previous year.

Mexico assumed a clean electricity generation goal of 25 percent
by 2018, including gas flaring and large hydroelectric dams; 30
percent by 2021; and 35 percent by 2024.

But the reality is that the renewable matrix is only around
seven percent, although it could reach 21 percent by 2030 with
policies aimed at fomenting it, according to data from the
International Renewable Energy Agency
(Irena).

By 2021, more than 200 clean energy generators are to come into
operation, generating 19,500 MW. Of these 200, 136 are solar and 44
depend on wind power, according to the Energy Regulatory
Commission.

As López Obrador reiterated during the election campaign, his
energy plan consists of the construction of a refinery in the
southeastern state of Tabasco, the upgrading of the National
Refinery System’s six processing plants and of 60 hydroelectric
plants, as well as investment in solar energy.

The president continues to refuse to close plants of the state
generator CFE, due to the need to meet the growing energy demand of
this Latin American nation of 129 million people, the second
largest economy in Latin America.

According to government investment projects for 2019,
state-owned oil giant Pemex would have at its disposal about 24
billion dollars for oil exploration and extraction, the overhaul of
six refineries and the start of construction of another.

For its part, the CFE will be able to spend some 23 billion
dollars on projects such as the renovation of 60 hydroelectric
plants and the development of solar energy.

The solar panel factory that is proposed as an alternative for
Huexca, could, in fact, cover a significant deficit in technology
and inputs in the solar energy sector in Mexico, say experts.

Hopes for change

López Obrador plans to visit the area on Feb. 11 and has
requested that a file be put together on the generator in order to
decide the future of a construction project which so far has cost
around one billion dollars.

The local population does not want to see seven years of
struggle against the plant go to waste. “We need alternatives. We
voted for López Obrador, he can’t let us down. We are only
demanding respect for our right to life,” said Castellanos, the
activist.

For Sarmiento, the academic, the environmental and health
damages would be greater if the plant goes into operation. “The
maintenance of the plant will be more expensive than solar
generation. And what will happen when it reaches the end of its
useful life? It will be useless,” he said.

Meanwhile, the inactive smokestacks of the unfinished plant are
waiting for a signal to belch out smoke and the electric pylons are
rusting with no power to transport. Perhaps they never will, if the
local residents have their say.

The post
Mexican Village Wants to Turn Thermoelectric Plant into Solar Panel
Factory
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Mexican Village Wants to Turn Thermoelectric Plant into Solar Panel Factory