Solar panels began filling a parking lot outside a children’s hospital this week as Elon Musk’s first major solar-plus-storage project in Puerto Rico took shape, demonstrating how quickly solar microgrids can be established for long-term clean, resilient power.
It’s one small but telling step in a U.S. territory of 3.4 million people still largely in the dark five weeks after Hurricane Maria struck.
Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SolarCity, launched a conversation about bringing solar microgrids to the island a little over two weeks ago in a Twitter exchange with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello. Musk suggested that pairing solar panels with battery systems had worked for other islands and could help Puerto Rico rebuild from the hurricane, too. Rossello’s quick response: Let’s talk.
“Hospital del Niño is the first of many solar+storage projects going live,” the tech company tweeted with photos on Tuesday. CBS correspondent David Begnaud, who is in Puerto Rico, reported that the installation would generate enough energy to power the hospital during the day and store 500 kilowatt-hours of energy for power at night.
Tesla has declined to provide details about its plans in Puerto Rico, saying only to watch for updates through its Twitter channels.
While Musk has been drawing most of the attention for the solar microgrid push in Puerto Rico so far, his is just one of several efforts to bring power back to an island where some three-quarters of the population still lacks electricity.
Sonnen, a German-based battery company, said it was shipping solar-plus-storage systems to Puerto Rico to support disaster response efforts and planned to work with partners on developing microgrids there. Sunrun and other solar providers have been working together to send solar power supplies to the islands. Non-profit groups, too, have brought in installers and donated materials to help communities power up.