As the utility on the island continues to fail, new systems of renewables–installed after the storm–are showing what a more resilient grid could look like.
Seven months after Hurricane Maria hit Humacao, Puerto Rico–the first town on the island in the path of the storm–the community still hasn’t been connected to the national electric grid. But when the national grid went down last week after an accident, a community center in Humacao still had power.
The community center, like several other buildings across the island, now has its own solar electricity and battery storage system. “I think the irony wasn’t lost on anyone that we were sitting there with a full suite of electrical power while the rest of the island did not have it,” says Adam Gentner, director of business development in Latin America for Sonnen, a company that makes solar microgrids that can operate with or without a connection to a larger power grid.
Since the hurricane, Sonnen has installed solar microgrids at 11 sites across the island. One recent installation powers lights, refrigeration, and other equipment at a health center. Another powers a school that is serving as a shelter in Bartolo, a tiny mountain community where informal land ownership agreements mean that local farmers don’t have the paperwork needed to get FEMA funds to rebuild.