Pioneering an Electric Grid in the Middle of Nowhere: Chapter 2: What’s Next — Evolving Beyond the Model of Self-Sufficient Homes to Empowering an “Off-the-Grid” Village
As John Fields gives a tour of his energy self-sufficient home, which he affectionately calls “Isla Verde,” he excitedly described his multiple solar panel roof installations as well as the POMCube NetZero battery energy storage system, and the energy management software that has allowed him to split his 48V solar PVs into multiple systems. John’s configuration effectively allows him to have a highly efficient and technologically advanced set-up that can generate “more than the energy [he] needs” to power his entire house including a satellite receiver for internet and television, charging systems for the AC, heater, refrigerator and freezer. However, what was even more inspiring was John’s passion as he described upcoming plans for the San Juanico community. “What we’re planning to do is to connect our neighbors here with the AI grid so that we can start sharing energy with each other’s. We will be able to buy, sell and trade with each other, depending on who is able to produce more or who might be more in need. It’ll be an interesting program for sure. There are so many social unknowns at this point, but the basic concept is solid. Together, the San Juanico community may soon be able to enjoy power 24/7, not just as individuals but as a collective community, growing and benefiting together. This AI grid is really going to be the future of energy. It’s a very exciting time for sure with energy sharing, and San Juanico in Baja is a wonderful place to pilot this program.”
The AI grid that John is referring to is the Eloncity Model, a model based on a decentralized and community-driven approach to empower the San Juanico community to trade locally-produced renewable energy among community members. The Eloncity Model includes several key features: (a) a blockchain technology platform that provides an opened, secured, and distributed ledger for the efficient recording of energy transactions and sources of electricity generation in the community; (b) crypto utility token (Eloncity Token or ECT) that facilitates local energy exchanges and incentivizes investment in battery energy storage system (BESS) for storing freshly produced renewable energy, as well as supporting an open global marketplace that enables communities around the world to access advanced renewable energy products and services; © a smart- networked BESS that harmonizes local electricity supply and demand and flattens intermittent renewable generations into predictable, reliable, and dispatchable energy resources; (d) customer- sited and community-based renewable energy generators, coupled with intelligent networked BESS, fulfill all or nearly all the local energy demands; (e) Community DC switching power network(s) eliminates the congestion on the last-mile networks and allow energy to flow from any party (or parties) to any other parties.
The AI Grid Foundation, a non-profit foundation formerly known as POMCube that developed the Eloncity Model, is working with the community to plan a pilot program to demonstrate the Eloncity Model in San Juanico in 2019. The pilot program’s goal is to serve as a replicable, exportable model not just for similar rural villages within the Baja California region, but also for remote communities around the world that lack reliable electricity services. The Foundation aims to standardize decentralized energy approaches to address the seemingly daunting issue of ensuring access to reliable and sustainable electricity services.
The Makings of an Unexpected, Inspirational Leader: How the Eloncity Model will Empower San Juanico’s Distinctive Community as an Example for Villages to Aspire to
The San Juanico community’s growth and economic development serve as a testimony of the local businesses’ and residents’ synergy and “vibe” that characterizes this village. This synergy underpins the Eloncity Model as a community-based regenerative energy economic framework dedicated to fostering a stronger community economically, environmentally, and energy-wise by deepening community collaboration and resource sharing.
For decades, the symbiotic relationship between residents, business owners, and visitors has been the driving force behind community development in San Juanico. From the close-knit relationships between residents to the interdependent business relationships among the small economy of local hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, fishermen, horse ranches, tourism, and sport enthusiasts, this village represents a wonderful life of synergy. There are many examples of this shared approach to community development in San Juanico that can be seen daily. The Scorpion Bay Hotel, one of several hotels in village, has a page on their website that celebrates “Our Familia” of the hotel staff.
Another hotel has an Instagram account that mixes recreational activities and tourism content with Spanish postings to promote local holidays such as Mexican Mother’s Day, the traditional Day of Saint Juan, and even events such as local high school graduations and local soccer tournaments. The weekly farmers’ market also plays an important part in the community including “Mexican Superfood” wellness retreats and farm-to-table restaurant menu offerings. Local fishermen return from their day at sea to sell their daily catch to the community, and on occasion, they hire out their boats for fishing tours. Even traditional cultural events, like San Juanico Days, which celebrates Saint Juan and features a local beauty pageant and parade, are celebrated by many of the community residents.
The rich local culture in San Juanico continually encourages visitors to “think locally, act globally.” The village’s hotels partnered with “Pack for a Purpose,” a non-profit that pairs visitors with a local cause. Prospective visitors are encouraged to visit the non-profit website where they can find a list of materials for education and basic items to donate when visiting San Juanico. Many expats who have relocated to San Juanico often volunteer in teaching positions at the local school or volunteer with emergency medical assistance.
Thanks to the deepening relationships between San Juanico’s returning visitors and locals, these visitors have begun to utilize their networks to bring in resources to support local community development. One such connection brought the International Health Collective (IHC), a youth and alumni-driven organization from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to work on new projects in San Juanico. Now in their third year, IHC visits the village twice annually to provide locals with free healthcare and check-ups and equips local community members with teachable skills to provide basic medical care for their families. IHC hosts free annual medical exams, dental clinics, cataract surgeries, and eye exams for San Juanico locals, all provided by the American doctors and nurses who come to the village at their own expense. A huge milestone for San Juanico, IHC has now raised enough funds through the global and local community to begin construction of a clinic in village.
Another beautiful example of the village collaboration is how the community comprised of locals, expats, and businesses worked together to launch a high school in San Juanico in 2017. Until recently, there was no high school in San Juanico. The local children had to travel hours to the nearest city in order to earn a high school education. The San Juanico community worked together to raise funds for a high school program of evening classes held at the village’s middle schoolcampus. The Scorpion Bay Hotel celebrated San Juanico’s first high school graduating class last year by donating caps and gowns to the graduates and by holding fundraisers to raise money to hire more teachers.
The Scorpion Bay Hotel is also a proud sponsor of the local soccer team, filling a need where other companies have donated soccer uniforms to the middle school and high school soccer teams instead. A new village stadium was built in 2015 and is a place of gathering for soccer games between locals, expats, and visitors of all ages.
By connecting the Eloncity Model with San Juanico’s underlying philosophy of collaboration and community growth, San Juanico is on its way to becoming a shining example of a community-based approach to modern energy infrastructure and development. The Eloncity Model, in line with San Juanico’s community values, embraces energy progress beyond just self-sufficiency and off-the-grid independence. The Eloncity Model seeks to standardize the process to empower the community’stransition towards a shared renewable energy economy. Eloncity aims to empower local energy consumer networks that share, and exchange locally-produced renewable energy to overcome structural, geographical, and economic barriers and to also enable sustained community development and well-being. Based on this very foundation, the Eloncity’s pilot program is anticipated to ignite community growth in San Juanico further and provide an example of what it means to live in harmony, to work in synergy, and to live sustainably with the environment and with each other for a prosperous shared future.