September 18, 2023

Advocates in Action: Community Empowerment through Solar Energy

Auturo Massol Deya speaks about solar panels, microgrids, and self govermance

Arturo is the head of Casa Pueblo, an organization working for energy democracy, sustainable development, and natural resource conservation in the small towns of central-western Puerto Rico. 


We had the privilege to sit down with Arturo and discuss his inspiration, the various economic and arts activities that drive the community forward, and his vision for the future.


Tell us about Casa Pueblo and the work you do there.

Casa Pueblo was founded by my parents, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize (sometimes referred to as the Nobel prize for environmental causes) in 2002. 

We’re a community-based organization actively engaged in protecting our surrounding natural resources. We get involved in all sorts of projects, from fighting natural gas pipelines to leading local solar energy development, supporting the local economy by selling coffee, and managing a state forest. 

Through art, advocacy, and education, Casa Pueblo is building toward our vision of a more sustainable future for Puerto Rico.


What inspired you to get involved with environmental activism and conservation efforts?

My parents are my biggest inspiration. They loved nature and witnessed the complicated damages our society was doing to the surrounding environment - the beautiful mountains here in Puerto Rico. They were dedicated to reducing our impact on nature.

I also learned through my parents about the complicated history of Puerto Rico as a colonized island. Through the work to protect our natural resources, I have also become politically involved. I help Puerto Rico decolonize through independent economic endeavors led by us, the people.


How does Casa Pueblo involve and empower local residents in its environmental projects?

First it starts with education. We believe in the power of educating community members to bring about sustainable change for the future – and we do this mainly through art and community education. 

Casa Pueblo has our own movie theater Cine Solar that runs on our community solar-powered microgrid. In this theater we show a series of short films that tell about our work. It also serves as an educational entertainment hub for the community, inspiring folks to get involved in our forest management, local coffee production, community solar projects or other regional or national initiatives, particularly in election season. 

We believe in the transformative power of art and symbols. That’s why over the years, Casa Pueblo has painted murals throughout the towns we work with, inspiring residents and brightening the built environment in which we live, work, and play.

We also run a radio station with an objective to democratize the airwaves. We see Radio Casa Pueblo as a pathway to educational, environmental, economic, social and cultural development for the region. 

A cornerstone project of ours is promoting solar energy as a way for community empowerment. If we own our own energy through solar panels on our roof, and microgrids throughout our neighborhood, we are on a path to self governance and self-determination. 


Puerto Rico has faced significant challenges in terms of energy infrastructure and accessibility, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. How do you envision the future of renewable energy in Puerto Rico, and what steps can be taken to achieve a more sustainable energy system?

There is a false narrative that we lack the resources for reliable electricity. If we step back and think about what renewable energy really means and understand the capacity of local resources like the sun, we can embrace these clean sources and move toward energy independence. Promoting solar power for us is about promoting the power that lies in local knowledge and self-determination – letting the people lead and govern themselves. 

We want people to see the possibility of breaking away from being dependent on large systemic forces and think about a sustainable future for our community. Just a few months ago in March 2023, we held a wonderful community event called Marcha del Sol, to promote solar energy, celebrate and demand a faster transition to clean energy sources from governments around the world. Through democratizing energy, sustainable infrastructure, we can transfer power to the people, for a more livable future for us all.


Looking ahead, what are some of the upcoming projects or goals that Casa Pueblo is working towards, and how can individuals or organizations support your efforts?

Casa Pueblo is committed to local solutions here in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean. What we are doing here in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico and our surrounding area, we want to be a model for others. That’s why we’re launching a similar project in the Dominican Republic.

Climate change is a global threat, but our responses have to be driven from local initiatives in communities across the globe. Together we can reach international scale. 

Learn more about our work at We do not have any federal funding, so if you believe in this work, I encourage folks to become a Friend of Casa Pueblo by donating monthly

You can also support us by purchasing our sustainably grown and community-led artisan coffee, Café Madre Isla. It can be shipped anywhere in the United States. 

And follow us on X (Twitter), Instagram, and Facebook