Editor’s Pick: Energy storage firms ship ESSs to power hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico

Market Focus

Published on: October 12, 2017 10:01 amBy: Jade Beevor

 

The impact energy storage has had on the consciousness of end-users was summed up best by a simple message, written using the debris from a house, pleading the authorities to ‘Send Tesla’ after category four hurricane Maria left millions without power across the Caribbean on September 20.

The message was on St John, part of the US Virgin Islands, just one of many countries (not to forget Florida and Texas on the US mainland) left devastated when the hurricane swept through the area, was just one of many countries and

This, coupled with Hurricane Irma that hit the Caribbean and America a fortnight before, showcased the vulnerability of centralised power grids.

To this end both US energy storage system maker Tesla and German residential ESS firm Sonnen sprung into action, with the former’s lithium-ion Powerwall and the latter’s lithium iron phosphate SonnenBatterie being paired with solar panels on Puerto Rico. Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, 85% of the US Territory was still without power, with many predicting outages would last into the new-year.

News outlet Bloomberg first announced that Tesla was sending ‘hundreds’ of its Powerwall systems to be paired with PVs to help bring power back to the country on September 28.

In a Tweet on October 6, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said: “The internal Tesla Powerwall install team in (Puerto Rico) is very small right now. Sending experienced installers from continental US to hire and train local team as fast as possible.”

Although there have since been reports that unscrupulous installers were charging residents up to 50% more than Tesla’s recommended price, leading to Musk halting shipments to installers engaged in the practice.

On October 2, Sonnen announced its “Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative”, which included the deployment of microgrids to bring energy security to Puerto Rico.

Sonnen has had its units installed in Puerto Rico since early 2016, thanks in part to its premium partner on the island Pura Energia. Both firms have been working to identify sites, with emphasis on emergency medical clinics and emergency shelters across the island.

Sonnen subsidized the cost of Pura Energia to install both the Sonnen unit and the solar array, and were set to deploy a team of engineers and technicians to help lead the microgrid campaign locally, from system design through final installation, at the start of October.

Sonnen’s first target was to have the microgrids running within a month using its fully integrated system that allows a microgrid to run without requiring an initial grid connection.

Blake Richetta, senior vice president and head of Sonnen’s US business unit (and former North American sales manager of the Powerwall), said “It is our duty to step in and bring relief to our countrymen in Puerto Rico, as soon as possible.

Christoph Ostermann, founder and CEO of Sonnen said. “What is happening in Puerto Rico is a tragedy and as fellow human beings, it is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process. From my perspective, there is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change.”

In a statement on October 2, Brent Stayer, vice president of operations & quality control for Sonnen said: “Our plan is to ship a batch of our Eco Energy Storage Systems to Puerto Rico every week, while balancing the rest of our growing business in North America.

“In fact, we started shipping specifically to support the disaster relief last week. Our biggest challenge at this point will be gaining access to the ports. We remain hopeful that, starting next week, it will become easier to deliver our product to the island.”

Sonnen’s manufacturing and engineering facility in Atlanta, Georgia has been continuously shipping energy storage systems to the island since Hurricane Maria hit and they plan on focusing the factory heavily on the “Puerto Rico initiative” over the next several months.

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