In September tropical storms Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated islands and parts of the continental US. Both Irma and Maria reached category 5 intensity, with Irma wreaking havoc in Cuba before it continued on and made landfall in the Florida Keys. Hurricane Maria hit the US Virgin Islands, slamming Puerto Rico with winds of 155 mph. The island’s infrastructure was decimated with 85% of the island still without power.
Across the island many don’t have access to clean water, cell phone service is limited or unavailable, and roads are still blocked, inhibiting the delivery of necessary supplies. The US Army Corps of Engineers has been installing power generators and temporary roofs, with hospitals receiving top priority. More help is needed, and fortunately, more is on the way in the form of monetary contributions, volunteer labor and equipment—especially solar equipment—to help get much needed services back up and running.
Help on its way
Just a few of the groups that are organizing donations of money and supplies to help rebuild Puerto Rico include One America Appeal, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, Empowered by Light, the Solar Energy Industries Association as well as many solar and energy storage companies across the globe. One America Appeal, spearheaded by five former US Presidents, is collecting funds; Through its Habitat Hammers Back initiative, Habitat for Humanity is helping to repair and rebuild homes; UNICEF is taking donations to send basic supplies such as water purification tablets, soap, toothpaste and more; Empowered by Light is helping communities install solar power.
Empowered by Light installation on a fire station in Puerto Rico. Photo by Alejandro Melendez Gonzalez
The Empowered by Light non-profit organization partners with local people to install solar systems that enable communities to build better futures for themselves. Many of the projects generate revenue that helps pay for maintenance and lay the foundation for further community-based sustainable development. The organization started its work in Zambia in 2011, bringing light and solar energy to schools. Since then it’s continued its work in other areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas and it has also expanded its work by not only installing solar panels, but in helping women start solar businesses. The non-profit has partnered with SunRun and GivePower, along with many individuals, to install micro-grids, water desalination and purification systems, with a goal of installing a micro grid at all fire stations across Puerto Rico.
Other companies have also sent solar gear to help get the island back up and running. Elon Musk made the news again when he said that Tesla could rebuild the grid with solar+storage. Just recently Tesla Powerwalls (battery backup systems) arrived on the island. Germany energy storage manufacturer, Sonnen, launched the Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative. The company is working with Pura Energia, its distributor in Puerto Rico, to identify “emergency relief sites” where Sonnen can set up a microgrid. Sonnen is subsidizing the cost of installation of the Sonnen unit and the solar array.
An industry call to action
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) issued a call for help to its members and supporters. The trade group is coordinating efforts by developing partnerships and working with agencies to get products donated and delivered and to manage volunteer help. SEIA is also matches any financial pledges that are made. As of mid-October, SEIA had received more than $1.2 million in products and monetary donations from the solar network. New Star Solar sent a 747 jet with $300,000 worth of solar panels and solar generators. A Disaster Response Form is available for donations of money, volunteer labor, solar products and more.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today