April 1, 2021: The mountainous rural community of Castañer in Puerto Rico has been selected by Pathstone Corp and the Solar Foundation to have a minigrid installed for businesses in the area.
The solar and battery system is being developed with the help of the Microgrid Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico and a grant from the US Economic Development Administration.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation, killing nearly 3,000 people and causing around $90 billion of damage. Many people were left without power for six months.
In 2019 the Autoridad de Energia Eléctrica (Puerto Rico’s electricity authority) issued An Action Plan for a Greener, More Resilient Puerto Rico, in which it recommended minigrids of ‘self-sufficient electric islands’ be created through distributed resources and transmission and distribution systems.
It identified eight areas which have now been mandated as sites for segmenting the island’s grid into minigrids.
“To support hurricane preparedness, new peak generation resources may be deployed at existing sites and relocated when new minigrid infrastructure is developed,” it said. “Optimized resource locations and minigrid technologies will allow isolated operation of systems impacted by severe weather events.”
About 60% of the main island of Puerto Rico is mountainous, with the archipelago lying at the boundary of the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates. Earthquakes are a regular occurrence, with an average of five occurring every day — although the great majority of them are not large enough to be sensed.
It means minigrids are a good option for the region, providing a decentralized system as opposed to larger networks that have a greater effect on people when power is cut.
In December, Enel X and Eaton combined to deploy a solar plus storage microgrid at Eaton’s manufacturing facility on the main island. It will also supply energy to Puerto Rico’s grid as needed.