Pirucho Co-op lands historic certification as Puerto Rico’s 1st renewable energy co-op
The San Salvador Energy Cooperative Pirucho Co-op in Caguas announced its certification as a renewable energy Co-operative from the Public Service Regulatory Board as it aims to continue the development of the San Salvador solar community in Caguas.
“The community is proud,” said Feliciano Rodríguez-Domínguez, secretary of the Board of Directors of Pirucho Co-op. “The process of getting here has been intense and hopeful. We started from scratch, not knowing what a co-op was, how to run a local power company with permits, and without a penny. For the community, it’s been like a miracle.”
The next steps include adding 10 additional homes to the burgeoning solar community, currently made up of eight residences, added Rodríguez-Domínguez.
Pirucho Co-op will provide the residences with power generation services, using solar energy, along with energy storage systems. The systems are composed of solar panels, battery, an inverter, an isolator switch and a counter. Maintenance will be carried out by SunSol LLC.
The co-op’s ultimate goal is to achieve a solar community of 450 residences, out of the 730 that make up the area. To this end, they called on the cooperative sector and investors to be join the self-management project that contributes to energy savings and the preservation of the ecological footprint.
The project to create a solar community arose from the vicissitudes caused by eight months without electricity, in the wake of Hurricane María in 2017. The first thing the San Salvador Organized Community organization did, after analyzing and projecting its goal, was to try to attract US mainland investors to be part of this development. However, the efforts did not bear fruit.
Pirucho Co-op did obtain the financial support and guidance from the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (FCPR, in Spanish), which already had a history of strategic solar access projects in the communities, in response to the aftermath of Hurricane María.
“The Community Foundation’s financial contribution allowed the launch of this first phase of the project. It has also provided legal and technical advice,” Rodríguez-Domínguez said.
“The Foundation had already done work in support of other communities such as Toro Negro [the first solar community owned and administrator of the system] and Esperanza Village [first microgrid certified by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau]. And they’ve been sharing what they’ve been learning with us.”
The portfolio of solar energy projects at the FCPR also includes 37 primary health centers, six community aqueducts, a hydroponics center, three mobile renewable energy systems, 30 residences in Loíza and five community resilience centers.
Meanwhile, the FCPR has a solar access project in Culebra, and another that provides the infrastructure that would give access to this renewable energy source to the island’s 240 community aqueducts.
“The Community Foundation celebrates together with the community of San Salvador this historic milestone that comes from the very heart of the community and that is a reflection of the possibilities of self-management and community empowerment in Puerto Rico, which opens the way to other communities,” said Community Foundation President Nelson I. Colón-Tarrats.
“We only need philanthropic and social investors to allow us to continue to drive and support projects like these,” he said.