Wind, Sun and Water: Complexities of Alternative Energy Development in Rural Northern Peru

By Love, Thomas; Garwood, Anna | Rural Society, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Wind, Sun and Water: Complexities of Alternative Energy Development in Rural Northern Peru


Love, Thomas, Garwood, Anna, Rural Society


ABSTRACT

Drawing on recent research with NGO-driven projects in rural Cajamarca, Peru, we examine the paradoxes of relying on wind, solar and micro-hydro generation of electricity for rural community development. In spite of cost, vagaries of these energy resources and limited material benefits, especially with wind and solar systems, villagers are eagerly invested in these projects. While still desiring the power of grid electricity, local electricity is valued for how it illuminates shops and dwellings, extends the workday for children's studies and women, and powers TV/DVD players and cell phones connecting households with the wider world. Electrification with small-scale renewable technologies blurs the urban/rural binary, tied as it is symbolically with 'progress', modern consumption styles and the trappings of urban life, even as these technologies paradoxically reinforce rural autonomy with electricity that is locally produced, with local resources.

Keywords: rural electrification; renewable energy; Peru; solar energy; wind energy

What is it like to get electricity for the first time? With humanity at the peak of almost two-centuries of rapidly increasing dependence on fossil fuels to power civilization, this seems like an odd question. How easy it is for us in the industrialized nations to forget the large swaths of people, mostly poor, mostly rural, who remain energy poor (Sanchez, 2010). The one-time gift of cheap fossil energy has fueled the wonders of our modern world: getting humans to the moon, transforming night into day and enabling historically unprecedented mobility. Characterized by a kaleidoscopic, intersecting maze of spaces and 'scapes' (Appadurai, 1990), the fractured complexity of the globalizing world grips the imaginations and challenges the traditional cultures of the two-thirds of humanity in the 'developing' world. High-energy globalism, with its unequal terms of trade, is continually relegating the peasant and remnant tribal world to relative material and symbolic backwardness, even as it fosters whole cultures of desire for movement and 'progress'.

Electricity symbolizes this globalizing culture, and is particularly associated with urban ways of living and cultural forms. Centrally marked by its lack of electricity,1 rurality as a result is widely associated with poverty and isolation. Rural electrification upsets and blurs this urban/rural dichotomy (already a simplistic and problematic trope (cf. Nugent, 1996) because it: (1) facilitates rural economic options, counteracting poverty and thus quelling the lure of urban migration; and (2) allows for various forms of communication, urban consumption styles and connectivity, counteracting isolation. Such new economic options and enhanced connectivity strengthen ties to globalization forces, raising a tangle of new and unexamined issues and tradeoffs regarding cultural autonomy and change.

While grid and locally generated electricity in rural areas might seem to have similar social and cultural effects, under the assumption that electricity is always just electricity, technology is never neutral. Here we draw on ethnographic and survey research from 2008-2011 with members of four off-grid communities in Cajamarca, Peru, to examine how electrification with small-scale renewable technologies intersected local social fields and cultural understandings. In general, while rural electrification with small-scale renewable energy technologies has provided meaningful benefits for villagers' daily living patterns (e.g., lighting, communication and entertainment), it has not yet altered longstanding livelihood strategies nor basic social, cultural, political or economic relationships in the region. While villagers value decentralized, renewable energy because of these benefits and its strong connection with local natural resources, local production of electricity and off-the-grid autonomy, they continue to aspire for the material and symbolic benefits of 24/7 grid-quality electricity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Wind, Sun and Water: Complexities of Alternative Energy Development in Rural Northern Peru
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.