Energy-starved Rio favela enjoys solar panels on World Environment Day

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AP
Energy-starved Rio favela enjoys solar panels on World Environment Day
Copyright  Bruna Prado/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

An NGO is bringing solar power to one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest communities, providing a cheaper and sustainable power source to residents of the city's Babilonia favela.

The project, run by Revolusolar, started in 2016 with two hostels in the favela. Brazil celebrates World Environment Day on Saturday.

In 2019, one public school received solar panels that have saved around 975 euros annually in electricity bills, according to Valdinei Medina, who is a spokesperson at Revolusolar.

The latest installation, a small solar panel plant, will help 36 local families.

Public and private services are not always accessible in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, with residents complaining of high electricity prices and poor grid services.

Besides installing solar panels, the NGO also provides professional training for residents to become electricians who specialise in solar energy installations and educational material for children which teaches them about the importance of renewable energy and the environment.

Suzi Rocha lives in Babilonia and is part of the crew that installed the latest solar plant and one of 44 residents who have been trained by the programme.

"The idea to help my community, act in my community and other communities in need attracts me a lot," said Rocha.

She was already an electrotechnical technician and saw the project as a way to specialise in the solar energy area and be better prepared for the market.

Revolusar's project has so far helped dozens of locals families and employed several residents in the favela, according to spokesperson Medina.

"Our dream is to have every resident here using solar energy," said Medina.