Puerto Rico supermarket chain to add rooftop and carport solar

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A San Juan, Puerto Rico supermarket chain has made a commitment to renewable energy by signing an energy-as-a-service agreement to install on-site solar at its eight store locations. Plaza Loíza, based in San Juan, this week became the first supermarket on the island to move forward with a rooftop solar portfolio to reduce energy costs, hedge against future electricity rate increase, and cut its carbon footprint.

Loiza’s first rooftop solar system sized at 520 kW will be installed over the coming months by Delta Energy Partners, LLC and ESCOPR, a local energy efficiency engineering firm. James Tu, chief executive officer of Delta Energy Partners, the project developer, told pv magazine USA the first solar system in Carolina, Puerto Rico uses a 290 kW rooftop array with additional carport PV systems providing 230 kW, bringing total onsite generating capacity to 520 kW.

With a number of Plaza Loiza’s markets located in shopping malls not requiring carport systems, Tu said the supermarket portfolio could see up to 5 MW total solar installations using both rooftop and carport systems.

Delta Energy is using Boviet Gamma mono bifacial PERC solar modules and Hoymiles HM series microinverters across the supermarket portfolio, Tu said.

The developer applied for a net metering permit from PREPA, Puerto Rico’s grid manager and power authority, as well as construction permits for carports at the Carolina project site, and expects to complete installation by May, with other projects across the San Juan portfolio to follow.

Including energy audits, installation, and a 25-year maintenance agreement, the Carolina, P.R. supermarket project requires no upfront capital investment from Plaza Loíza, which will pay for solar energy at a significantly lower rate than what local power company Luma Energy currently charges, according to Delta Energy Partners. Luma is a consortium made up of Canadian firm Atco Energy and Quanta Services.

“We are thrilled to work with DEP and ESCOPR to bring solar power to our properties and stores, starting at the Metropolis shopping center in Carolina,” said Ferdysac Márquez, president of Plaza Loiza. “This project, using the EaaS model, will significantly reduce our carbon footprint, helping us achieve our goal to be more friendly to our environment and decrease our energy cost, at a time when Puerto Rico’s power rate is already high and continues to increase.”

Puerto Rico could be an epitome of what’s coming for the global energy transition, Tu told pv magazine USA. The island relies heavily on fossil fuel for its power source and following increased frequency and severity of climate change-linked storms, creates a huge opportunity for distributed generation resources such as rooftop solar and energy efficiency solutions.

In addition, Puerto Rico’s electric rate costs continue to rise, with a seven time increase over the last 18 months due to the privatization of Puerto Rico’s transmission and generation assets, which now reflect the true cost of maintenance and upgrade for the power infrastructure, Tu said.

The Puerto Rico commonwealth’s January 2022 bankruptcy exit led to the U.S. Financial Oversight and Management Board overseeing its finances, making it harder for the local government to continue to subsidize utility cost increases across the island. Climate change and the island government’s solvency have forced residents and businesses to seek energy efficiency and solar energy.

Delta Energy Partners, based in Fort Lee, N.J., has provided energy as a service solutions to Puerto Rico commercial and government entities since 2014, though its business saw multiple disruptions between 2018 and 2022 due to Hurricane Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic, Tu said.

The company chose Puerto Rico to provide Net Zero Building solutions, from energy efficient LED lighting to distributed energy such as rooftop solar projects, Tu said.

With a no-money down cost structure, Delta Energy and ESCOPR are paving the way for more island grocery stores and retailers to deploy onsite solar systems. The partnership between Plaza Loíza, Delta Energy and ESCOPR is just one of many examples of collaboration in the island aimed at promoting clean energy and reducing energy costs.

Energy Resilience Relief

This week the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Deployment Office released a Request for Information (RFI) to gather feedback from stakeholders in Puerto Rico on how to allocate $1 billion managed through the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF).

After recent hurricanes and decades of underinvestment in the island’s electric grid, the new funding will be developed to increase energy resilience and reduce the energy burden on the Caribbean island’s vulnerable residents. The investment also aligns with Puerto Rico’s public energy policy to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 as well as the Biden Administration’s commitment to improving the island’s energy system.

The PR-ERF package will be managed by the Grid Deployment Office in consultation with the Federal Energy Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The agency is requesting information from Puerto Rican stakeholders about both short- and long-term energy solutions including residential rooftop solar deployment, community and critical service energy resilience, non-profit partnerships, and workforce training to sustain the island’s clean energy economy.

Feedback for the PR-ERF process, including identifying priority energy technologies and solutions, eligibility, funding structure, and timing, can be provided to government stakeholders by April 21 at 5 p.m. ET by emailing: PuertoRicoGDO@hq.doe.gov. Initial funding from the program is expected to be administered by the end of 2023.

**A Luma Energy spokesman responded to pv magazine USA by e-mail on Feb. 27, 2023, saying the company has not raised or proposed to raise customer rates in Puerto Rico. The spokesman said Luma Energy  has no control over how rising fuel prices may directly impact customer rates or bills, which are exclusively set by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB).  Additionally, Luma Energy supports renewable energy growth in the Puerto Rico commonwealth, including connecting 42,000 P.R. residents to rooftop solar, adding over 270 MW of renewable electricity to the grid, among other initiatives which include shorter interconnection times, distributed energy systems and connecting a 27 MW wind farm to the P.R. grid following Hurricane Maria. 

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