Bogota, Colombia | September 14th, 2023


Greenwood Energy and leaders of the Arhuaco indigenous community hosted the ‘SOLɅR FOR NɅTURE’ roundtable, a private breakfast held on September 6 at the Hilton Hotel in Bogotá, where they shared their experience in the development of the TERRɅ INITIɅTIVE project. The event was attended by directors of the Libra Group, Conservation International, Saving The Amazon, ProColombia, Cercarbono, and Allcot, who joined the leaders of Greenwood Energy, the Arhuaco Cabildo for Magdalena-Guajira, and the Association of Mamus and Traditional Authorities of the Arhuaco People, Ni’kuma.

The event was moderated by the Arhuaco youth rights advocate and environmental leader, Ati Gunnawi, who this year was highlighted by Forbes magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in Colombia. Ati began the meeting by remarking how “TERRɅ establishes an important precedent in the proactive participation of indigenous communities in projects carried out in their ancestral territory, respecting and preserving their culture and traditions.” Then, the CEO of Greenwood Energy, Guido Patrignani, the Arhuaco Governor for Magdalena-Guajira, Danilo Villafaña, and the Delegate of the Elder Mamus, Noel Torres, provided greater details of the project and shared the indigenous perspective, together with the Head of the Mamus’ Council of Magdalena-Guajira, Camilo Izquierdo, and the Mamu responsible for the Ka’dukwu of Jimain, Miguel Angel Torres.

“TERRɅ INITIɅTIVE presents an innovative infrastructure project structuring model, unprecedented in the private sector, in which the company is deeply involved with the community in the joint development of a project,” explained Guido Patrignani. During the planning stage, the Arhuaco people were responsible for identifying the project site and delimiting the areas to install the solar plants, as well as the layout of the transmission line. Regarding the latter, Guido commented: “The Mamus and Traditional Authorities spent three days on the project site, accompanied by a surveyor, to precisely define the location of the solar plants and the layout of the transmission line. After that visit, Greenwood proceeded to adapt the engineering of the plants and the route of the line, following the instructions of the Mamus; it was interesting to discover that by doing so, the construction cost of the transmission line was reduced by 10%.”

The project consists of 162 Megawatts peak [MWp] solar capacity distributed in three different sites, where each site is made up of two 27 MWp solar plants and a new indigenous village built on the same property. The community itself is responsible for the design, development, execution, and corresponding management of resources provided by TERRɅ for the construction of the indigenous towns, which have been planned under the traditional guidelines established by their highest authorities, the Mamus, thus guaranteeing the preservation of their traditions and culture.

“This project is special; a new initiative in the Sierra; the first one with these features. It’s based on a vision of the participation of indigenous partners in the territory recovery, environmental conservation, and taking leadership in the global policy to reduce emissions in the face of climate change. It is compatible with our way of seeing the world, understanding life, and being faithful to our culture, focused on respect for nature,” highlighted Danilo Villafaña, Cabildo Governor of the Arhuaco People for Magdalena-Guajira.

The indigenous leaders explained to the audience that the initiative initiated by the Arhuaco community itself, whose Mamus saw the need to approach the energy transition from a different angle, proposing to include additional benefits that collaborate with the preservation of their culture, the Sierra Nevada, and their people. Likewise, they highlighted that through this project, the development of the region and the ancestral traditions of the community can be integrated, reaching an innovative balance between corporate, social, and environmental benefits.

For his part, the Delegate of the Elder Mamus, Noel Torres, added: “Companies have a development model that does not think about the beliefs of indigenous peoples. Under the culture that we are, we have historically identified ourselves as the guardians of the territory. Finally, we found Greenwood Energy, whom we were able to pull and bring together to discuss ideas for the development. It is necessary to support this type of project; it is not every day that a company appears to us, convinced of the cultural change we propose.”

In addition to the construction of new indigenous towns, TERRɅ INITIɅTIVE will provide the Arhuaco People with a contribution for each kilowatt-hour [kWh] generated by the solar plants to finance their land acquisition program within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In turn, after 25 years of operation, Greenwood Energy will transfer the solar assets to the community so it can dedicate all its proceeds to its conservation program. Once the project and the indigenous vision were introduced, the attendees and experts in environmental conservation in Colombia shared their opinions and perspectives on the transition towards non-conventional renewable sources, discussing the current conservation and emissions reduction strategies of the organizations working in the country.

“As a private company, one of our priorities is the sense of responsibility towards the environment, our people, and the communities we work with. We are proud of this project, one of a kind, designed to contribute to the conservation of one of the most valuable natural reserves in the world. Once completed, it will not only deliver clean energy but will also provide several benefits to the Arhuaco people, in job creation and as an engine of growth; it is an unprecedented model in the industry,” commented Manos Kouligkas, CEO of the Libra Group.

Abraham Koreman, Senior Advisor at Conservation International, added “We have tried to convince several investors that indigenous people want land for environmental, community, and spiritual benefits, but to date it has not been easy. You have done it – first the land, and then the project – so we congratulate you, and that is why we have always supported this project.”

Likewise, Julio Cesar Puentes, vice president of Investment at ProColombia, established that “this project of the Arhuaco People and Greenwood Energy is an example for the country and the world on how things should be done in the private sector”. In addition, he pointed out that “TERRɅ sets a new way of developing projects, where communities are involved from the beginning and not at the end.”

TERRɅ INITIɅTIVE promotes a valid and highly relevant discussion about the coordination that must be achieved between corporations, governments, and communities to begin forging more disruptive mitigation tools in the face of the climate crisis. This project represents a private financially sustainable alternative to achieve a positive and lasting impact on one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet through the empowerment of the people ancestrally entrusted to protect it.

The summary video of ‘SOLɅR FOR NɅTURE’ is available at: