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Sustaining old with new

Asociados PanAmericanos, a small wind project developer, has taken a unique approach to developing wind power in the Baja California desert in Mexico by co-operating with the Pai Pai Indigenous Community of Mission Santa Catarina, the native owners of the land. The Pai Pai take pride in having lived in harmony with nature in the region for over 3500 years. Today, they see co-development of a utility-scale wind farm as a way to demonstrate how to live sustainably in the modern world.

Asociados PanAmericanos (APA Wind), a small wind project developer operating out of Oakland, California, has taken a unique approach to developing wind power in the Baja California desert in Mexico by co-operating with the Pai Pai Indigenous Community of Mission Santa Catarina, the native owners of the land.

The Pai Pai take pride in having lived in harmony with nature in the region for over 3500 years. Today, they see co-development of a utility-scale wind farm as a way to demonstrate how to live sustainably in the modern world.

The APA-Pai Pai venture is called Apait, a word meaning "for everyone" in the Pai Pai tongue. "It's one of these rare endangered languages that only eighty or so families speak," says Jim Walker of APA Wind (main story).

There are concerns that the traditional way of life will vanish should the Pai Pai, like indigenous people in the US, form partnerships with developers of gambling casinos to earn money. Wind farms could be just as lucrative for the Pai Pai as casinos: the tribe owns more than 500 square kilometres of land in one parcel alone blessed with some of the area's strongest winds.

APA Wind has made the tribe a half partner in developing wind on land the Pai Pai own. "We're making a tremendous effort to find some value, some reason for them to sustain the language and the culture," says Walker. "We're trying to break the mould on things and want to make sure they do better than with a traditional developer with a traditional land lease."

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