Solar power has long been a source of power for Peru’s Uros people. This indigenous people of Peru live on more than 50 artificial floating islands on Lake Titicaca and lead simple lives which consist of fishing and craftsmanship. However, a resident in one of the islands, Victor Vilca, says that the Uros people started using solar panels about 25 years ago.
Currently, Victor has installed six solar panels on his own island. Together with his wife and children, as well as three other families, he is enjoying the amenities that solar power makes available.
Some historians believe that this unique race dates back around 3,700 years ago up to the time when Central Andes was first settled. These people were forced to these islands by the colonizing Incas.
Uros devoid of most all technology except solar power
Their time is mostly spent in rebuilding and replacing the spongy foundations of their homes. Being apart from the mainland all their lives, there is not much cultural influence that changed their ways of living since their tribe’s inception.
The Uros people have retained the original habits of their ancestors. However, when they were introduced to solar power, they were early adopters.
Unfortunately, their mainland counterparts have not been so quick to adopt solar power. Based on the data of the International Energy Agency, Peru is only supplying about 0.02 per cent of its domestic power demands with solar power. This is in stark contrast with the rest of the world which is steadily increasing its reliance on solar power.
Mainland Peru lacking renewable energy commitment in comparison to Uros
In early 2014, the Peruvian Government announced its plan to install 500,000 solar panels in the country’s remote areas. This is part of its strategy to boost electrification from 90 to 95 per cent in rural areas.
Lake Titicaca, where the floating islands of the Uros tribe are located, is about 58,000 square kilometers or 22,400 square miles. It is about 22,000 feet above sea level and is the world’s highest navigable lake. The lake is already vulnerable to climate change.
For instance, in 2009, the Lake Titicaca authorities reported that it was at its lowest level since 1949 due to water evaporation induced by global warming.
Coupled with the diminishing rainfall and a steady rise in solar radiation, the lake had experienced four years of critically low water levels threatening fish spawning.
Lake Titicaca predicted to be severely impacted by climate change
An academic paper that was published in 2010 entitled: “Nonlinear climate change and Andean feedbacks: an imminent turning point?” which indicated that the lake could shrink as much as 85 per cent if temperatures rise more than 2°C.
This is the threshold set by world Governments. Considering the current emission rates, this limit could be far exceeded by the end of this century.
In fact, there are images taken by NASA satellites which show the edges of Lake Titicaca already receding from its original boundaries. To avert the potential problems that will affect around 2.6 million people in the area, it is essential an increased focus on solar energy and other renewable sources be implemented as soon as possible.