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Solar Responders gets $90K grant to install solar panels at Cataño Fire Dept.

Nonprofit Direct Relief and AbbVie teamed up to donate $90,000 to Solar Responders to install solar panels and a battery storage system at the Cataño Fire Department.

“Energy resilience is one of the five pillars of Direct Relief’s mission on the island. Installing renewable and resilient energy systems in strategic locations such as health clinics and fire stations will not only allow for continuity of operations after an emergency but will also empower first responders,” said Ivonne Rodriguez-Wiewall, executive advisor of Direct Relief Puerto Rico, which has donated more than $110 million for local solar power initiatives and to health centers and currently has more than 350 projects underway.

The donation is meant to ensure that these first responders can continue to operate the station and respond to emergencies when the power goes out. The Cataño Fire Station was chosen because its municipal port is “critical” so that emergency response agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Coast Guard, can deliver aid to communities after a natural disaster strikes the island, officials said.

The Cataño Fire Station, which has a staff of more than 10 firefighters and eight paramedics, became a shelter after Hurricane María struck in 2017, as communities gathered there to connect their medical equipment and to charge their phones.

It is now the sixth such facility to be outfitted with the new power source, equipped with 39 inverters, 39 modules and three Tesla power walls.

Hunter Johansson, CEO of Solar Responders, said he learned about the challenges faced by first responders during the aftermath of the hurricane, and decided to take action, by equipping emergency facilities with renewable energy systems.

“Power is everything for first responders because it supports their communications and the well-being of the communities,” said Johansson, who is Actress Scarlett Johansson’s fraternal twin brother.

“Because we don’t have information about the government’s available resources, it’s up to the nonprofit organizations and the [Fire] Departments to make up for that for the communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cataño Mayor Félix Delgado said, “The impact of Hurricanes Irma and María was devastating for my people. With a lot of effort and with the help of many good people, Cataño was able to rise and today we can say that we are on the way to reconstruction.”

“This is why this effort by Direct Relief, Abbvie, and Solar Responders in our town’s fire station is a very valuable and important one,” Delgado said. “It prepares us for subsequent events and places us in a better position to face any atmospheric phenomenon or event that leaves us without electricity.”

Solar Responders’ mission is to maximize the capacity of first responders to save lives with renewable energy. For Johansson, being able to provide reliable energy to first responders “is a reaffirmation that they will have the tools needed to accomplish their life-saving work.”

“It’s the resilience that this Department has that characterizes its commitment and we won’t stop until the 96 stations are all self-sufficient,” he said.

The first renewable energy system was installed at the Rincon Fire Department Station on Jan. 4, 2019, when Solar Responders powered it up with 30 panels and two Tesla power walls.

Other Fire Department stations previously outfitted with the power sources are in Loiza, Yauco, Humacao and Culebra.

Because hurricane season is seven weeks away, the nonprofits want to ensure the first responder’s effectivity, given that they played a big role after Hurricane María.

Author Details
Author Details
Yamilet Aponte-Claudio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated from Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Providencia and is currently a junior at Sacred Heart University. Majoring in Journalism and adding a minor in sustainable development and foreign languages, she aspires to study law after obtaining her bachelor’s degree.

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