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Solar Powered Coffee Production: A new meaning for green coffee

Solar Powered Coffee Production: A new meaning for green coffee

The need for a more sustainable and affordable energy supply was a concern identified by De la Gente and the leadership of the San Miguel Escobar coffee cooperative (SME) since the installation of San Miguel’s dry mill 2 years ago.  Not only does SME use the dry mill facility, containing two coffee threshers (trillas) and an industrial sorter, to process their own coffee, they are also contracted to process coffee from three other partner-cooperatives of DLG. Between these four cooperatives, a total of nearly 90,000 pounds of coffee will be processed through the San Miguel facility. The heavy amount of energy required during this process, and the high amount of sunlight received in this region during the coffee processing season, made this a perfect fit for the implementation of solar-generated electricity.

Linda & Kyle Checking out San Miguel Escobar's dry mill set up and energy needs.

Linda & Kyle Checking out San Miguel Escobar's dry mill set up and energy needs.

Linda from Lux Aeterna installing three new solar panels on the roof of the dry mill.

Linda from Lux Aeterna installing three new solar panels on the roof of the dry mill.

This past week saw the installation of a solar array atop SME’s dry-milling plant. Almost a year from concept to completion, this project involved De la Gente working closely with SME and with Lux Aeterna Solar, a green energy company based out of Antigua, Guatemala. Lux Aeterna provides affordable and reliable sources of energy for businesses and homes in Central America. Coupled with their ethos of promoting more sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and responsible living, this project provided a perfect platform for SME to be an innovative, forward-thinking leader, both within the local community and amongst coffee-growing organizations throughout the country.

We have found that projects have a higher rate of success when partners have a financial stake, meaning that they contribute meaningfully to the cost of major infrastructure. In this case, it was agreed that SME would cover 30% of the total cost, paid for with a with a 4-year, no-interest loan from De la Gente’s cooperative financing fund. The rest of funding for the project was provided by De la Gente, with support from Nossa Familia Coffee and Wings and Roots. Operating in this way ensures buy-in, commitment and a sense of ownership on the part of the cooperative.

Timoteo, President of the SME Coop checking out the new panels.

The installation of this grid-tied system will result in nearly completely self-generated power for the cooperative’s milling operations. Furthermore, excess power generated will be fed back into the grid, giving SME an energy credit to use when conditions are less ideal for solar energy. In the community of San Miguel Escobar this is an innovative move, and we look forward to seeing the improvements that this project will bring not only to the cooperative, but to the community as a whole.

Join us in investing in sustainable and impactful projects that lead to more sustainable coffee cooperatives by donating to De la Gente’s Micro-financing Program. It is through your generous contributions that projects like this one come to fruition and the coffee industry is made more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive.