The specter of blackouts hovers over the Mexican city of La Paz, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico's far northwestern corner, as summer approaches, due to increased electricity demand from air conditioning and insufficient capacity in the local grid.
The installation of photovoltaic panels to use solar energy to irrigate small farms is expanding quickly in Chile because it lowers costs and optimizes the use of scarce water resources.
The lack of water is so severe in Peru's highlands that farming families are forced to sell their livestock because they cannot feed them. "There is no grass or fodder to feed them," says Fermina Quispe, a Quechua farmer from a rural community located at 4,200 meters above sea level.
"Anxiety, insomnia and depression have become widespread. We don't sleep well, I wake up three, four times a night," complained Brazilian farmer Roselma de Melo Oliveira, 35, who has lived 160 meters from a wind turbine for eight years.
The installation of solar panels in a remote village in the Andes highlands in late February marked a second incursion by the Venezuelan government into the field of solar energy, previously uncharted territory in this country that for a century was a leading global oil producer.
“Our electric power is of bad quality, it ruins electrical appliances,” complained Jesus Mota, 63. “In other places it works well, not here. Just because we are indigenous,” protested his wife, Adélia Augusto da Silva, of the same age.
With large projects held back by the economic crisis and lack of infrastructure, Argentina seems to be looking at an alternative path towards a more sustainable energy mix involving small renewable energy projects, promoted by environmentally aware industries, businesses and private users.
Solar energy is booming in Roraima, a state in the far north of Brazil, to the benefit of indigenous people and children in its capital, Boa Vista, and helping to provide a stable energy supply to the entire populace, who suffer frequent electricity shortages and blackouts.
When asked about the impact of incorporating solar energy at the school he runs in Atraico, a remote rural area in the Patagonian steppe in southern Argentina, Claudio Amaya Gatica is unequivocal: "Life has changed, not only for the school but for the whole community.”
In Magallanes, Chile's southernmost region, doubts and questions are being raised about the environmental impact of turning this area into the world's leading producer of green hydrogen.
After making a model for a solar heater, installing solar panels and creating a device to dehydrate food with the help of the sun, Félix Morffi is turning his home into a space for the production and promotion of renewable energies in Cuba.
Brazil could become a world leader in the production of green hydrogen, and the northeastern state of Ceará has anticipated this future role by making the port of Pecém, with its export processing zone, a hub for this energy source.
Renewable energies, especially solar and wind power, are growing inexorably in Chile, driven by large companies. But community generation of alternative energy is not taking off, despite a law promoting it.
The multitude of solar panels stands out along a dirt road in an unpopulated area. Although located just an hour's drive from Buenos Aires, the new solar park in the municipality of Escobar is in a place of silence and solitude, symbolic of the difficulties faced by renewable energies in making inroads in Argentina.
After working on the family farm, Carlos Salama comes home and plugs his cell phone into a socket via a solar-powered electrical system, a rarity in this rural village in southern El Salvador.
At home, Isabel Bracamontes uses gas only for cooking. "We try to prepare food that doesn't need cooking, like salads," she says in the southeastern Mexican city of Mérida.
More than 90 percent of Chile's 17.5 million people have access to electricity. But many live in energy poverty because they do not have access to hot water, have unsafe connections, houses without thermal insulation and with indoor pollution, or can't afford to pay the monthly bill.
Communities in Arica y Parinacota, the region in the extreme north of Chile, are using solar energy and are being empowered by projects for shrimp and trout farming, the production of yarn from camelid wool, the production of tomatoes and cheese, and even the sale of surplus solar power to the national electric grid.
Chile is in a privileged position in the world to produce green hydrogen and boost the development of the new fuel thanks to the country’s optimal conditions for generating solar and wind energy, but the large investment required and the scarcity of water are two of the biggest obstacles to overcome.
Indigenous farmers on communally owned lands have blocked since 2016 a private solar farm in the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatan by means of legal action, due to the company’s failure to hold consultations with local native communities and the risk of environmental damage.
Most beginnings are rocky and sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable, before they are finally overcome. This was certainly the case for the Finca Marta, a farm in Cuba that had to begin by digging a well in search of water and with the hard-scrabble work of clearing an arid, stony and overgrown plot of land.