Puerto Rico community opts for solar-plus-storage resiliency solution
The poor condition of Puerto Rico’s electric grid is common knowledge. After Hurricane María struck in 2017, many communities lost power for months. This long outage led to almost 3,000 deaths and an exodus of residents.
Still recuperating from the aftermath of María, the southern part of the island was hit by a major earthquake in January 2020 that damaged the Costa Sur power plant and caused another major outage.
Needless to say, residents are frustrated and looking for solutions to ensure that another calamity doesn’t result in extended periods without electricity. Although there are a variety of alternatives available for achieving community resiliency, the University Gardens community in central San Juan has chosen to pursue a solar-plus-storage solution for individual households.
Solar-plus-storage has become common in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Before Maria, homeowners typically chose to install solar panels only. While the panels have provided renewable energy, power from solar is only available during the day. Adding batteries to the mix, however, ensures power is available at all hours.
University Gardens benefitted from the assistance of Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a nonprofit organization that helps communities acquire solar-plus-storage, achieving lower pricing through a bulk purchase model.
IEEFA and Puerto Rican advocacy group CAMBIO reached out to SUN to find a community where a solar and storage bulk purchase project could be tested. Eventually, we connected with the University Gardens community, a highly organized and active community.
IEEFA, CAMBIO and SUN held multiple virtual information forums (during the COVID-19 pandemic) to explain the process to the community. We went over how a solar-plus-storage system would work and what residents could expect from their systems. The community set up a proposal evaluation committee. A request for proposals was issued to install solar and storage systems for 50 University Gardens residences.
The committee selected a winning bid. So far, 10 households already have their systems installed, and seven more are underway. By purchasing installations for multiple residences in the same package, homeowners have been able to obtain a more affordable price for their systems than had they purchased them on their own.
The University Gardens project has generated interest among other communities, and we look forward to integrating the lessons from this pilot project and continuing to build energy resiliency for Puerto Rican communities.