Solar power is quickly becoming a literal life saver in Puerto Rico. After their devastating hurricane, many people inside the solar industry are sending panels and batteries to help get the island back to full speed. While an eco-friendly and practical short-term solution, this could also be the beginning of a brand new, more reliable electric source that powers the island. That's right: Puerto Rico might just lead the way in solar on a large scale.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been greatly involved in the change, creating a disaster response form for those that want to send money or products to Puerto Rico. Last week, they announced that they’ve received $1.2 million in both monetary and product donations. That’s just in the first few weeks of them setting up the service, and momentum suggests it'll only increase from here.
SEIA noted that New Star Solar from Salt Lake City, Utah, sent $300,000 worth of solar equipment to Puerto Rico. Companies like Tesla and Sunrun have donated rooftop panels and Powerwalls to the battered island. Numerous others have volunteers helping to set up this solar equipment.
Las Vegas Fire & Rescue captain, Richard Birt, set up a team to help with the construction of micro-grids in San Juan. Local firefighters in the area were having trouble reaching people due to a lack of electricity. People being more reliant on generators and candles has also sparked more fires.
Brit told Bloomberg that the idea of creating micro-grids was through himself living off the grid for over a dozen years, explaining, “We put solar on the roof because the sun comes up every day. It’s not going to run out of diesel like a generator or have a problem. The sun comes up, it charges the battery and the batteries are full everyday waiting for the power to go down."
Sunrun will set up solar generation systems near firehouses in Puerto Rico. These micro electric grids could serve as a test on how well the island can function when people rely on separate and renewable sources of energy. Marco Antonio Rigau, who is the president of San Juan’s city council, believes it’s important for “regions to have their own systems.”
In the meantime, they are simply attempting to get power back on throughout the entire territory, and that includes importing more diesel-powered turbines. By the end of the month, they’ll be in operation to boost electrical generation and help prevent frequent blackouts in the San Juan area. Governor Ricardo Rossello believes that power throughout the island can be fully restored by Christmas.
Once power is fully restored, the governor insists that further investment in renewable energy will be part of the rebuilding process. The combination of solar panels connected to battery packs could prevent a disaster of this magnitude throughout the island in the future. Rossello has been in talks with Musk on potential options for the new electrical grid.