Solar Industry steps in to aid Puerto Rico after grid went down

Posted Sep 30, 2017 by Karen Graham
Puerto Rico's power grid is destroyed, leaving the situation dire for the island's 3.5 million people. However, it's been learned that the solar industry has been quietly responding to the needs of the people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Green Tech Media reports that despite the federal government's slow response to the desperate situation in Puerto Rico, private companies and players in the clean energy sector have been quietly moving ahead to help the island get back to some semblance of normality.
On Friday, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) posted an announcement about its efforts to coordinate with solar companies to donate equipment and installation services. SEIA is developing partnerships and coordinating with agencies to most efficiently and effectively deliver the supplies that are needed.
The Tesla Powerwall
The Tesla Powerwall
Tesla Energy
It was also learned that Tesla has been quietly shipping Powerwalls to Puerto Rico ever since the hurricane cleared. This was first reported by Bloomberg yesterday and later confirmed Tesla to Electrek.
Tesla has sent hundreds of battery packs to be paired with solar installations. And yes, solar and battery packs can still be affected by hurricanes, but having distributed energy generation and storage capacity is safer than a centralized power grid. And Tesla's battery packs will enable a more efficient use of solar power once the grid is back up.
Solar companies big enough to help now
“That’s what is different today than during the Haiti earthquake, or some other disasters recently. The solar industry is just much larger,” said Jigar Shah, president of Generate Capital. “We have the ability to do things we weren’t previously able to do.”
Just one of the many solar powered lanterns available at Goal Zero.
Just one of the many solar powered lanterns available at Goal Zero.
Goal Zero
Some of the donations include products that can be used immediately, such as the 40,000 solar lanterns already shipped from Haiti. And there are about one million more of these lanterns around the world that could be sent to the island, said Shaw. Additionally, portable-solar company, Goal Zero, among others, is coordinating efforts to get more of the lanterns to Puerto Rico.
Goal Zero was founded by Robert Workman in 2010 and has its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Goal Zero products range from small solutions for recharging devices like cell phones and notebooks using solar panels and battery packs to mediums sized solutions for laptop-size devices, to larger generator substitutes that can power devices as large as refrigerators using stored power. All of these power solutions can recharge via solar, wall plug, or USB.
Renewable energy investors see opportunity
With the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority saying it will take four to six months to get power restored to the territory, the solar industry wants to shorten the time-frame considerably. Many politicians and renewable energy investors have gotten on board in the effort to re-invent the island's grid as a storm-resistant network.
Puerto Ricans whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Maria are enduring shortages of food ...
Puerto Ricans whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Maria are enduring shortages of food, water and fuel as they wait for recovery efforts to gain pace
If this can happen, it would help to reduce electricity bills on an island that struggles with the second-costliest electricity in the United States, behind Hawaii. “We cannot waste the opportunity of this crisis and federal aid package,” said Ramon Luis Nieves, a Puerto Rican politician in the Popular Democratic Party.
U.S. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced a set of bills this past week that calls for the Department of Energy to make the U.S. electric grid more resilient against natural disasters and would offer grants for small-scale, grid-connected solar and other projects.
Almost half of Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated from imported fuel oil, while about one-third comes from natural gas. The rest comes from coal. The prospect of rebuilding the grid to incorporate renewable energy sources has piqued the interest of Jeff Ciachurski, CEO of Greenbriar Capital, a renewable energy investor in Puerto Rico, California, and Arizona.