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Can Puerto Rico Be The Model For A Renewables-Powered Energy System?

As the island rebuilds from Hurricane Maria, renewable energy storage companies like Sonnen and Tesla are constructing microgrids on the island to create a more resilient system before the next storm strikes. In the small Puerto Rican town of Loíza, after Hurricane Maria took out the power grid, residents started washing clothes in a local river–filled with bacteria that then made many people sick. But at a local church, a new solar microgrid now powers donated laundry machines, along with a refrigerator for food and medicine and outlets for charging phones.The microgrid–a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and other equipment, completed last week–is one of 15 that the battery-storage company Sonnen is rapidly deploying with partners over the next several weeks to respond to the disaster on the island, which is still mostly without power more than a month after the hurricane. Like another microgrid that Tesla is building next to a children’s hospital in San Juan, it’s a renewable alternative to the diesel generators that are also in use. But it’s also one piece of what could become a much more renewably powered grid for the entire island.The case for a shift to more renewables seems clear. Sunshine is more abundant in the Caribbean than in California or Spain. The amount of wind is competitive with states like Texas, which leads the U.S. in wind energy production. New renewable energy is affordable to build, and could help cut electric bills in a place where residents have been paying twice as much as Americans who live on the mainland.


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Fast Company