sonnen was one of the early movers to take its resources and solutions on the road to solve the problems caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, committing to bring 15 microgrid systems to the island.
sonnen just announced that it has installed the 11th such system, in the mountainous Lares region of Puerto Rico. The system combines solar and a sonnen smart energy storage system that maintains the balance of generated power and incoming solar generation. The new system was installed in an abandoned school that has since been repurposed to provide housing for 14 families that lost their homes last year in Hurricane Maria.
Centros de Apoyo Mutuo led the effort to repurpose the school, which had been shuttered since 2014, as a shelter, which resulted in the 14 classrooms being converted to apartments for displaced families. The new sonnen microgrid servicing the school also provides power to a disaster relief and recovery center at the school, which provides support to the broader community on the longer journey to recover from the hurricane.
The repurposed school has become a beacon of light and hope for the community as a passionate group of local leaders aspires to open Puerto’s Rico’s first solar-powered café and theater at the school. This is a beautiful example of how restoring the base needs of a community can, at the same time, open the eyes of an entire generation to the potential of new energy technologies. The potential of solar and storage is only now starting to be realized and the power of the combined technologies is even larger for communities lacking stable power from a local grid.
“The residents of Puerto Rico, despite insurmountable challenges, have shown great strength and resolve in the face of adversity. Lares is an incredible example of harnessing available resources to establish sustainable practices that will serve the community for years to come,” said Adam Gentner, sonnen’s Director of Business Development, Latin American Expansion. “The adoption of solar + storage to aid in Puerto Rico’s disaster relief and recovery is another example of implementing energy independent solutions that will aid the island and its communities regardless of what energy challenges they face in the future.”
The microgrid installed in Lares is comprised of a smart energy storage system that makes use of a sonnenBatterie eco 8 (4kw/8kWh) and eco 16 (8kW/16kWh), which was paired with a 9kW rooftop solar system provided by local partner and installer Pura Energía. The two batteries were initially deployed to Puerto Rico to provide short-term relief at another microgrid site before being installed in its permanent location in Lares.
The ability for solar-plus-storage microgrids to be rapidly installed after a disaster should be seen as a lesson to all first responder agencies going into any region affected by a disaster. It is a much more robust solution than relying on traditional generators that need a constant supply of gasoline or diesel to continue operations. Here in well developed Southern California, first responders, followed by the inevitable churn of insurance companies and financial institutions, were quick to bring out mobile trailers and tents supported by obnoxious diesel generators that showed just how behind the times they were.
“The recovery needs throughout Puerto Rico are constantly changing and by repurposing the sonnenBatterie units from the prior La Perla and Loiza sites, we are able to adapt to the long-term needs of the island and its residents,” said Gentner.
Solar-plus-storage isn’t just cheaper, it also allows for one-way shipments, where companies can send down a portable microgrid system and follow sonnen’s lead in donating the system to a local non-profit, community center or government to avoid the non-value add return shipping on what will then be a used system. sonnen’s example in rapidly deploying microgrids, then finding a home for them on the island for the long haul has added significant value to the community of Lares and more broadly across Puerto Rico.
“This solar project is going to energize more than just the farmers and their families. Our facilities will make jobs available for the area’s youth and will allow us to offer art therapy to help residents cope with the aftermath of the hurricane,” said Elisa Sanchez, site manager for the Lares community. “Thanks to the incredible support of partners like sonnen, we are able to go beyond our primary goal of housing area families, but also restore a sense of community and culture.”
The Lares microgrid is the 11th such system sonnen and Pura Energía have installed in Puerto Rico since the hurricane, with more on the way. Including the physical components of the system, sonnen and Pura Energía have donated more than $350,000 via the del Sol Foundation for Energy Security to the people of Puerto Rico.
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