Puerto Rico Moves Forward: Innovative Energy Solutions after Hurricane Maria

Juan Rosario: This is a moment in which we
know there is going to be a paradigm shift. Science right now is on our side. Efraín O’neil-Carrillo: The centralized large power plants that Puerto Rico has, did not suffer really much damage. So, it wasn’t a problem of generating the
power, it was a matter of transporting that power from the places where it is generated
in the large power plants to the places that people needed it. O’neil-Carrillo: The impact on the transmission
system was so large that basically the blackout lasted for so long, months. Maria really proved that the centralized hierarchical
model that has dominated the electric utility industry in Puerto Rico for almost 80 years
is insufficient to really deal with the impact hurricanes can have on the island. O’neil-Carrillo: There’s a lesson there. We need to look at more local resources. O’neil-Carrillo: A microgrid is a geographical
area where you have enough electric energy resources so that that area can operate by
itself, disconnected from the utility or from other systems. It’s also a social approach to deal with the
energy challenges in the island collaborating with the grid. Part of your energy would come from the utility
but part of your energy would also come from your local resources. If the grid is not there because of a storm
or whatever you can still operate as if you were a microgrid. Arturo Massol-Deya: Casa Pueblo is a community-based
organization up in the mountains. In 1999, Casa Pueblo decided to break the
energy dependency and since then, we have been running on solar power. We were able to open the house the day after
the hurricane. People were coming here to use our installations
as an energy oasis to recharge their equipment, to connect their respiratory equipment, and
immediately we were able to deploy a community relief effort. This is our power plant. No air emissions. No pollution. We’re using solar power to generate electricity. O’neil-Carrillo: That solar panel is made
of a special material or materials that basically take the energy from the light of the sun
and makes material within that solar panel create that electricity flow. Massol-Deya: 100 percent of the energy at
this point is coming from solar power. Some energy’s going back to the batteries
but the batteries are already full. We want to export that excess energy to the,
to our neighbors. So that’s the future. Rosario: When we came here, we realized that
this was a paramount moment in the history of our country. Technology is going to change it. But people are going to drive that technology. This is one of the places we came at the very
beginning, one month after to Maria, to Jayuya. The community started organizing and began
talking about the kind of system they wanted to deploy in their own communities. So there were some donations, small systems
that people at the beginning they were afraid of doing it by themselves. By the second week, the people were installing
systems by themselves. Rosario: We are not talking now about building
microgrids from zero, we are talking about how can we start deploying very small systems
that will be used in emergencies. And from that microgrids from the community. O’neil-Carrillo: Maximizing our local energy
resources, the sun, the wind, the ocean, when technology is available, but also us, the
main player here, the main component is the people. Rosario: The electrical system of the country
is going to build from the ground up, it’s going to be built but the grassroots is going
to be built by their own people beat by beat. In the century of climate change, renewable,
distributed energy is the kind of technology can that can let to people own their energy. Massol-Deya: We have to move away from centralized
power generation. We are generating electricity at the point
of consumption. And that’s what we called resiliency.

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