Last year, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, knocking out power across the island.
But in the mountain town of Castañer, the lights stayed on at a community center and several businesses.
“Everybody loses power … but the folks over in Castañer never lost power,” says Carlos Alberto Velázquez López of the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator, a program led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. “Also, other residents of that local region were able to come into the business sector and draw on their energy and electricity for basic necessities.”
Velázquez López says Castañer had power thanks to a solar microgrid that his group helped install last year. It includes solar panels and battery storage that can operate independently of the island’s electricity grid in an emergency.
He says the need for the microgrid became clear when Hurricane Maria hit in 2017.
It took more than two months for power to be restored to much of the island after the storm. In Castañer, the lights did not come back on for more than six months.
“To me, that was unacceptable,” Velázquez López says.
So the microgrid now offers residents more stability, even as climate change brings more extreme storms.
Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman/ChavoBart Digital Media