A play on the word “cooperative” joined to the name of legendary astronomer and mathematician Copernicus, results in Coopérnico – Portugal’s first renewable energy cooperative, whose pioneering project is located at Quinta do Caracol, in Tavira.
Founded by 16 like-minded citizens, the association currently boasts 175 members. It has invested €284,000 in six renewable energy projects and is directly responsible for the creation of 657MWh of power.
Speaking to the Resident, Coopérnico’s João Alírio explained that the association’s primary focus is to “get people and businesses involved in the creation of a new renewable energy paradigm”.
The Quinta do Caracol project has seen Coopérnico set up 68 solar panels with a 16KW capacity.
The farm’s owner Margarida Viegas told us that her rural tourism initiative was chosen because its location in the Sotavento (eastern Algarve) “gets so much sun every year”.
This far, everything has gone “very well”.
The solar panels installed at the farm produce enough energy to power its nine tourist homes. In fact, in their first year, the panels produced 12% more energy than project organisers expected.
For now, the project remains in Coopérnico’s hands, but the plan is to transfer management eventually to the farm.
Nuno Brito Jorge, Coopérnico’s president, tells us the association has its eyes on new projects in the Algarve and may soon hold an event to inform people what Coopérnico is all about.
In the meantime, Alírio told us a little of how the initiative got started.
Coopérnico’s six projects were co-financed by private investors and larger European cooperatives.
“We then put our projects up online with shares available to be bought by Coopérnico members.
“So far, every parcel we have put up for sale was purchased right away.
“There are always many people interested in investing because the process is very transparent,” said Alírio.
To become a member, you will find an online form, with all the relevant joining details explained.
Once people have “bought in” to the cooperative, they are able to consult each one of the projects and work out how to manage their investments.
While Quinta do Caracol is a “special pilot project” others have formed partnerships with IPSS (private social solidarity institutions) as Coopérnico’s ethos is to work with charities whenever possible.
As Alírio explained, cooperatives like Coopérnico are becoming more and more popular in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia.
For now, this year’s objectives centre on attracting more members. The goal is 450.
Coopérnico also hopes to win certification as a “green energy seller” that sells at competitive prices.
By SARA ALVES
Translation: Michael Bruxo