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Hurricane María

Private energy co.’s offer to help restore PR’s power grid

Private sector companies are offering help to restore Puerto Rico’s power service. (Credit: UTIEROficial Facebook page)

Solar provider Sunnova and residential energy storage company sonnen Inc. announced separately on Monday plans to work with Puerto Rico authorities to support efforts to rebuild a more robust energy grid and deliver power to island residents quickly.

Sunnova Energy Corporation, which has operations in Puerto Rico, is working to send energy storage systems (batteries) to the island to integrate into existing solar installations.

The batteries are part of an effort to solve the immediate needs of Puerto Rican customers and to create a more resilient, long-term power service for the island’s energy infrastructure, which must be almost entirely rebuilt, company CEO John Berger said.

“Sunnova is working directly with Gov. [Ricardo] Rosselló’s team and the Trump administration to assist in the recovery and restoration of power to residents facing prolonged electricity outages,” Berger said.

“Prior to the storm, Sunnova had just under 10,000 systems installed. Right now, we are working to get those systems back on line and to provide our customers with battery storage to provide critical electricity services while the work to restore and rebuild the grid commences,” he said.

“We are encouraged to see the governor and federal government demonstrating strong leadership in the face of such adversity, the likes of which we’ve seldom seen before,” Berger added.

“This is a seminal moment, as crises often are, where we will see the energy business fundamentally change because of what’s happening now,” Berger said. “Solar and batteries will be a necessity for short-term needs and long-term energy planning. The grid in Puerto Rico needs to be rebuilt to become more resilient, and that includes one with distributed solar and batteries.”

To help aid in recovery, Sunnova has sent members of its Houston-based team to Puerto Rico to support local employees already assessing the damage and repairing solar systems.

The Houston team went equipped with recovery supplies — including generators, satellite phones, solar backpacks and other inventory — to support employees on the island.

“We want Puerto Rico to know that in the immediacy of the situation, we are here to help in any way we can,” Berger said.

Meanwhile, German energy storage manufacturer sonnen Inc. pledged to build and donate microgrids to help bring emergency power to the island. It has also launched the “Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative” (PRESI) as part of its efforts.

With more than 21,000 actual working installations worldwide, sonnen’s energy storage system is equipped to help provide relief in Puerto Rico, with no delay, the company said. Since early 2016, sonnen has had functional energy storage systems installed in Puerto Rico.

The company has been working with its partner in Puerto Rico, Pura Energía, since Hurricane Maria hit the island. Sonnen and Pura are currently reaching out to existing customers to ensure that they have critical power and are safe.

Still, stable communication between Pura Energía and sonnen has been a challenge due to the extent of the devastation and lack of connectivity on the island,” sonnen said in a release.

The German company’s next priority is to work with Pura to identify targeted “emergency relief sites,” where it can provide a stable microgrid that will make a significant impact on each local community.

This includes subsidizing the cost of Pura Energía to install both the sonnen unit and the solar array. As soon as the strategic plan is in place with Pura, sonnen will deploy a team of engineers and technicians to help lead the microgrid campaign locally in Puerto Rico, from system design through final installation.

“Our smart energy storage system is uniquely positioned to serve as a critical resource during the emergency in Puerto Rico, as it is a fully integrated system with all the components needed to form a true Microgrid without requiring an initial grid connection,” said Blake Richetta, senior vice president and head of sonnen Inc.’s U.S. Business Unit.

“Many energy storage systems on the market today require an initial grid connection, as well as additional parts for set up, in order to form a true off-grid Microgrid. This is not the case for sonnen, as it is a natural capability of our product. Therefore, it is our duty to step in and bring relief to our countrymen in Puerto Rico, as soon as possible.”

Prior to joining sonnen, Richetta was North American Sales Manager for Tesla Energy and was charged with selling the Powerwall product.

“Clean and affordable energy for all is the mission of our company. It is what we believe in and it is what drives us every day,” said Christoph Ostermann, founder and CEO of sonnen Inc.

“What is happening in Puerto Rico is a tragedy and as fellow human beings, it is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” Ostermann said. “From my perspective, there is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change.”

sonnen is specifically targeting emergency medical clinics that require power for the refrigeration of medicine, as well as emergency shelters across the island. sonnen management is also interested in partnering with a clean water filtration company, in order to help complement their effort at each microgrid.

sonnen’s immediate objective is to begin building microgrids as soon as possible using their existing, high-quality, and tested product. It is critical to understand that this program is not “in theory” or “of potential” but is instead immediately viable. Ostermann’s target is to have the first microgrids up and running in less than a month’s time – an ambitious but achievable timeline.

sonnen’s manufacturing and engineering facility in Atlanta, Georgia has been continuously shipping energy storage systems to the island since Hurricane María hit and they plan on focusing the factory heavily on the “Puerto Rico initiative” over the next several months.

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

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