Solar Power Comes To The Rescue In Devastated Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is recovering from Hurricane Maria, and is contemplating installing an electrical system which is more resistant to hurricanes - solar power. 

By Hugh Finlay

The main thing needed to pull Puerto Rico out of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, is electricity. Most buildings on the island are still without electricity, and some people could be without electricity for a year, if they rely on conventional power supplies. On the US mainland a hurricane might knock out the distribution of electricity, but in Puerto Rico the generation, transmission and distribution have been knocked out. As President Trump put it "The electric power grid in Puerto Rico is totally shot."

Solar To The Rescue

This is where solar energy is stepping in, to rescue Puerto Rico in its moment of need. The usual electric grid was brought down by the hurricane; and electric generators do not necessarily work, if the fuel is contaminated. Solar power is much less prone to disruption by a hurricane, than conventional electrical systems. The solar industry has seen its opportunity, and is sending large amounts of equipment to help restore the island's electricity supply, and show its governor Ricardo Rosello what it can do.

The Importance Of Batteries

For instance, Tesla Inc. has sent Powerwall batteries, and another solar company, Sunrun, sent 12,000 pounds of equipment. Sunrun is using these charitable contributions as a first step to setting up grids throughout Puerto Rico. A spokesman for Sunrun said "We build solar panels to withstand 150-mile-an hour winds -- if the roof stays on your house, the solar panels stay on your roof. And batteries are real-life safety equipment. From a broad perspective, solar and storage can strengthen grids everywhere." More batteries are needed on the island to make sure the power produced through solar panels can be stored (so that people can use solar electricity at night).

$1.2 million worth of solar products has been promised to Puerto Rico through the Solar Energy Industries Association.  Within 2 weeks of the disaster, solar power was providing 18.4 kilowatts of energy.

Richard Birt, a Las Vegas Fire and Rescue expert dealing with the situation said: "We put solar on the roof because the sun comes up every day. It's not going to run out of diesel like generator or have a problem. The sun comes up, it charges the battery and the batteries are full every day waiting for the power to go down." 


Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rosello said the Puerto Rico must "give ouselves an opportunity to not just rebuild the old system but rather to establish a platform so that we can consider microgrids" and other sources of renewable energy. Ricardo Rosello has already contacted the solar pioneer Elon Musk, about the subject, after Musk said that his company, Tesla Inc., could rebuild electrical system of Puerto Rico with solar power panels and batteries.  Apart from making electric cars, Tesla Inc., sells solar batteries to go with solar panels. The price of lithium batteries has fallen by 75% since 2010.

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