Intelligent residential energy storage provider sonnen announced the commissioning of a solar + smart energy storage microgrid that delivers energy security and sustainability to a community of rural farmers in Lares.
This microgrid, established by repurposing the abandoned Manuel Rojas Luzardo school, provides housing for 14 families who lost their homes to Hurricane María nearly seven months ago.
The community of approximately 7,000 residents is located in the mountainous barrio of Bartolo, mostly populated by coffee farmers who migrated to the region in the 18th century.
With most land ownership being passed down through generations via handshake agreements and no legal paper trail, many area residents do not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money.
In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane María, Centros de Apoyo Mutuo has been rebuilding Puerto Rican communities across the island.
By partnering with sonnen and Pura Energía to sustainably power a community hub for Lares, they are providing immediate and long-term relief for local residents and revitalizing the community, the companies stated.
The site is located at a school that has been shuttered since 2014, one almost all area residents had attended since its opening in the 1920s.
With assistance from Centros de Apoyo Mutuo, the community was able to convert classrooms into apartments to house 14 local families, which are powered by the sonnen microgrid.
Remaining areas of the former school have been redesigned as a disaster relief and recovery center with the kitchen being used as a community food distribution center and the administrative offices being used as an art classroom.
The grounds have been converted to a community garden that not only assists in feeding the community but also enables the creation of a trade school to teach sustainable farming practices.
In addition, there are plans to open Puerto’s Rico’s first solar-powered café and theater on the site, which will be run by the local youth center.
“The residents of Puerto Rico, despite insurmountable challenges, have shown great strength and resolve in the face of adversity,” said Adam Gentner, sonnen’s director of business development, Latin American Expansion.
“Lares is an incredible example of harnessing available resources to establish sustainable practices that will serve the community for years to come. The adoption of solar + storage to aid in Puerto Rico’s disaster relief and recovery is another example of implementing energy independent solutions that will aid the island and its communities regardless of what energy challenges they face in the future,” Gentner said.
The microgrid, installed in collaboration with sonnen’s local energy partner, Pura Energía, serves as a model for the resiliency created by solar + storage technologies, as it represents a fully off-grid site deep in a remote area of Puerto Rico.
In establishing the microgrid, sonnen donated a smart energy storage system, consisting of a sonnenBatterie eco 8 (4kw/8kWh) and eco 16 (8kW/16kWh), which was paired with a 9kW rooftop solar system provided by Pura Energía.
In developing the Lares project, sonnen was able to repurpose two sonnenBatterie units that had been providing short-term relief at previous microgrid sites.
“The recovery needs throughout Puerto Rico are constantly changing and by repurposing the sonnenBatterie units from the prior La Perla and Loíza sites, we are able to adapt to the long-term needs of the island and its residents,” said Gentner.
“This solar project is going to energize more than just the farmers and their families. Our facilities will make jobs available for the area’s youth and will allow us to offer art therapy to help residents cope with the aftermath of the hurricane,” said Elisa Sánchez, site manager for the Lares community.
“Thanks to the incredible support of partners like sonnen, we are able to go beyond our primary goal of housing area families, but also restore a sense of community and culture,” she said.
The community is the site of the 11th microgrid system that sonnen and Pura Energía have installed on the island since Hurricane María struck in September 2017. Other microgrids have included community and relief centers, washing machines and laundromat centers, food distribution centers, two schools, and a primary healthcare clinic.
All efforts and technology were donated by sonnen and Pura Energía via the del Sol Foundation for Energy Security, exceeding $350,000.