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Solar energy could be key in Puerto Rico’s transition to 100% renewables, study says


This Sept.  20, 2017 file photo, poles and power lines fall on the road after Hurricane Maria hit the eastern region of the island of Humacao, Puerto Rico.
This Sept. 20, 2017 file photograph, poles and energy traces fall on the highway after Hurricane Maria hit the japanese area of the island of Humacao, Puerto Rico.

Carlos Giusti / AP

It turns into clearer how Puerto Rico can obtain its objective of acquiring 100% of its electrical energy from renewable vitality sources by 2050.

In the course of a two-year examine by the federal authorities, referred to as PR100, researchers concluded that the island has rather more renewable vitality potential than it wants. The report was launched on Monday. The researchers discovered that there’s a choice amongst many residents for “distributed vitality,” which is produced near the place it’s used. Rooftop photo voltaic panels are the commonest instance of that.

“We now have confirmed that these techniques are immune to hurricane winds, and that they will present sturdy vitality, inside hours after the storm,” mentioned Agustín Carbó, Director of the Division’s Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Restoration Group of Power. In keeping with him, the present system of smaller, centralized and enormous energy vegetation will take longer to revive electrical energy to your complete island, particularly in distant and mountainous areas.

Final yr the DOE’s Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory, with funding from the Federal Emergency Administration Company, started finding out choices to transition the island to 100% renewable vitality by the yr 2050. The objective is to construct an electrical energy system. stronger in opposition to future storms, which local weather change analysis exhibits can be larger and extra highly effective.

The plan is to change from imported fossil fuels – petroleum, pure gasoline and coal – to cleaner sources akin to photo voltaic and wind. One other objective is to make electrical energy cheaper. The island’s electrical energy charges are about twice as excessive as common charges throughout the US The federal examine is predicted to be accomplished by the top of this yr.

4 completely different situations had been modeled to fulfill Puerto Rico’s targets – all together with further rooftop photo voltaic mixed with battery storage. First is the give attention to the set up of distributed vitality in buildings the place the house owners can then get the monetary advantages of producing electrical energy. The second focuses on important providers, akin to hospitals, fireplace stations and grocery shops. The third consists of prioritizing deployment in distant and low-to-moderate earnings households to distribute advantages pretty. The final choice is to put in photo voltaic panels on as many different roofs as potential.

Even earlier than all of the photo voltaic panels are put in, the examine’s authors say the island wants extra electrical energy technology.

“Vital further technology capability is clearly wanted instantly to enhance reliability, which is a matter that everybody in Puerto Rico is combating after Hurricanes Maria and Fiona,” mentioned Carbó, who beforehand chaired the Puerto Rico Power Fee. . He says fossil fuels are nonetheless wanted within the quick time period because the island works to succeed in its 100% renewable objective.

The Division of Power and FEMA gathered enter for the examine with an advisory panel of almost 100 folks and 50 public, personal and nonprofit organizations.

“For too lengthy, Puerto Ricans have lived in an antiquated and costly electrical energy system the place pointless obstacles and lengthy delays have prevented important enhancements,” mentioned the Secretary of Power. Jennifer Granholm in a written assertion accompanying a progress report on the examine.

Puerto Rico’s grid collapsed in 2017 after Hurricane Maria hit the island, killing not less than 3,000 residents. Months later crews struggled to revive manufacturing capability and rebuild transmission traces. After years of discontent over mismanagement and corruption within the US territory’s public energy firm, the Puerto Rico Electrical Energy Authority, was privatized.

In September, Hurricane Fiona introduced greater than 30 inches of rain in some areas and knocked out energy on the island once more. There may be widespread discontent with the personal firm, LUMA, which the federal government awarded a $1.5 billion contract to function the grid.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To seek out out extra, go to https://www.npr.org.

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