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Castañer community to run its own solar energy microgrid

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The rural and mountainous community of Castañer will have a solar energy microgrid that will provide uninterrupted power to small businesses that provide essential goods and services to the population.

The project will include the installation of solar energy and battery storage for small businesses, organizers said.

The initiative, funded by a grant awarded to Pathstone Corp. and The Solar Foundation by the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), is being worked on with the support of the Puerto Rico Solar Business Accelerator (AEESPR, in Spanish).

The Solar Foundation in collaboration with the Microgrid Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, are leading the development of the project.

In 2019, PathStone Corp. and The Solar Foundation received $3.8 million to promote the transformation of Puerto Rico’s energy system by developing the workforce in the solar industry, expanding financial options, increasing technical assistance for companies, as well how to build two solar energy microgrid projects. Castañer is the first of these projects.

“At PathStone we’re excited to contribute to the economic development of remote and vulnerable communities. We’re proud of the alliance that we have managed to establish with various organizations to start the construction of a microgrid in Castañer and also offer the opportunity to train about 120 people so that they can be inserted into the workforce of the solar industry under our training programs and PathStone employment,” said Rosa Uriarte, deputy director of PathStone Enterprise Center.

After a successful history of projects executed and managed in the community, Castañer was chosen from a total of nine communities after an evaluation process. In 2017, after Hurricane María hit, Castañer was without electricity for six months, representing a blow to the daily lives of its residents.

With the construction of the microgrid, small businesses that provide essential Castañer services will benefit from a clean, low-cost source of electricity that will also provide backup power in the event of future power grid outages.

The Solar Foundation and the UPR in Mayagüez will provide direct support to Castañer in all phases of the project, including the presentation of sustainable financing options, the writing of the request for proposal, the design of the project and its management.

The Solar Foundation will also donate solar equipment worth approximately $40,000, reducing the total cost of the project. The nonprofit will soon announce a new round of applications for the second microgrid project to be carried out with the support of AEESPR, it confirmed.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.
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