Solar companies band together to reshape Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure


90 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents are still without power after Hurricane Maria made landfall nearly four weeks ago. As government officials and aide groups struggle to alleviate the damage, solar companies are stepping in. In the coming weeks over $2 million dollar’s worth of solar roofing, generators, and lighting equipment are due to arrive on the island.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said that these supplies will be particularly useful as they can begin powering homes and businesses immediately. Puerto Rico’s entire electric grid has to be rebuilt, a job that has been estimated to take several months.

Vivint Solar and Sunrun, traditionally competitors in the solar market, coordinated a joint effort to help Puerto Rico. Sunrun promised to donate 8,000 pounds of solar equipment but did not have the capacity to move it all to Puerto Rico. Vivint responded, volunteering to ship their supplies along with their own.

“That’s what’s great to see: They’re getting together; we are putting all our competition aside to do this,” said Brad Creer, president of New Star Solar- another major contributor to the solar effort in Puerto Rico.

Famed entrepreneur Elon Musk publicly offered to assist in salvaging, rebuilding, and upgrading Puerto Rico’s power grid on twitter last week. This would be a significant investment on Musk’s part but one that stands to be just as profitable as it is charitable. Successfully implementing his solar technology on such a grand scale would demonstrate just what the company is able to accomplish to its investors.

In many respects, Puerto Rico is an ideal candidate for solar power. It’s situated closer to the equator then any other place in the continental United States and it enjoys high amounts of sunshine for the vast majority of the year. Additionally, Puerto Rico has the second-highest electrical costs of any US state partially due to its long neglected and notoriously unreliable power grid.

Tesla has already powered small islands, such as Ta’u in American Samoa. They installed a solar grid that powers the entire island with enough built in storage to keep the island running for three days without sunlight.

Article written by HEI contributor Kevin Abbott.

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