Elon Musk to Restore Power to Puerto Rico with Solar and Batteries

photovoltaic-2803889_960_720It’s been over a month since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc across the Caribbean, yet millions of Americans in Puerto Rico remain without power. In fact, reports indicate that only 21% of the island has power, attesting to the severity of this issue. With its Category 4 winds, Maria toppled transmission lines and subsequently destroyed the island’s electrical infrastructure. However, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has announced plants to restore power to Puerto Rico using solar panels and batteries.

According to Vox, Musk and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló have been discussing ways to restore power to the island. Gov. Rosselló tweeted that he “has no doubt” that Musk can work with Puerto Rico to help restore power to the island while also showcasing his company’s technology.

Of course, some people have criticized Puerto Rico for its lack of preparation, specifically in regards to its outdated infrastructure. According to Judith Enck, former leader of EPA’s Region II, Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure wasn’t upgraded when it should have been. “This predated the financial collapse in Puerto Rico. The fundamental problem is PREPA,” Enck said. “I met regularly with the utility in Puerto Rico and encouraged them to invest in energy efficiency and renewables, but there was tremendous resistance.”

Puerto Rico currently generates most of its electricity from power plants located on the Southern edge of the island. These coal-burning power plants generate electricity, which is then transmitted across the island using lines and transmitters. Statistics show that nearly three-fourths of Puerto Rico’s power comes from petroleum. This could change, however, as the island attempts to rebuild its electrical infrastructure.

It’s unknown exactly how Musk will help Puerto Rico, though experts believe the plan will likely include solar panels and batteries. Musk has already shipped batteries to the island. A few week ago, he send several hundred batteries to Puerto Rico. Each battery has a capacity of 210 kWh, making it the equivalent of 16 Powerwall cells. These supercharged batteries aren’t intended for just any application, however. They are being prioritized in applications that need power the most, such as hospitals and medical treatment centers. Without power, many residents and travelers stuck in Puerto Rico are unable to seek medical attention; therefore, these batteries could literally save lives.

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