Solar rushes in to re-light hope in Puerto Rico

Never let it be said that the U.S. solar industry doesn’t rally around its citizens when they find themselves in crisis.

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reporting as of Friday that 95% of the U.S. territory’s residents are still without power after Hurricane Maria devastated the island on September 20, the U.S. solar industry is gathering money, in-kind donations and technical help to bring power back to its citizens.

As of October 7, the donation website for an organization called Light Up Puerto Rico had raised more than $300,000 to purchase, among other solar-powered items, 225 solar modules. According to its organizer, Jorge Alvarado, a Puerto Rican native, the plan is to distribute the materials once enough money has been raised, starting with the more rural parts of the island, where it will take longer for electricity to be restored.

To get these goods to the island, Utah’s New Star Solar has sent a 747 jet which left Salt Lake City on October 7. At least some of the equipment came from New Star, with company CEO Brad Creer providing a $50,000 in-kind donation including solar generators and modules.

Light Up is also being supported in its fundraising efforts by Tifie Humanitarian, and additional supplies will be delivered via cargo ferry by October 19. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also playing a role, and says that it has been helping with logistics to get goods to the island.

SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper told CNBC that solar will be particularly useful in Puerto Rico because it can begin powering homes and businesses before the territory is able to rebuild its electric grid, a project that could take months. In the meantime, solar generators can serve as a stop gap that won’t require costly diesel.

Elon Musk has also noted that Tesla could completely rebuild the island’s grid. A Twitter conversation between Musk and the governor of Puerto Rico suggested that groups on both sides may discuss how to make that happen.

Residential solar installers Sunrun and Vivint Solar are working together to get 8,000 pounds of solar equipment to island. Sunrun has pledged the equipment, while Vivint Solar will provide the transportation.

pv magazine will update this story as more information becomes available.

 

Update: This article was updated at 10:30 AM EST on October 10 to provide additional details.