How solar panels are making Puerto Rico communities more resilient

During a blackout, solar-powered community centers can provide power for equipment and storing medicine.

Resilient Power solar in Puerto Rico
(Image credit: Resilient Power Puerto Rico video)

When Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico in 2017, it took out the island’s power grid. Eleven months passed before power was fully restored. In the meantime, some residents went without lights or a way to refrigerate food at home.

Alejandra Castrodad-Rodríguez is with the nonprofit Resilient Power Puerto Rico. She says recovery often took longest in low-income communities.

So her group has installed solar power and battery systems at 35 community centers in vulnerable areas.

“Everything from schools and after-school daycare centers to cultural centers,” she says.

Now these centers do not have to wait for the main power plant and transmission lines to be fixed after a storm. And they can help power the recovering community.

For example, Castrodad-Rodríguez points to a farmer-led nonprofit in the center of the island.

“In case there is a blackout, then the center becomes a hub where community leaders can organize to provide food … or have energy to power up medical equipment,” she says.

So moving to clean, distributed energy can help Puerto Rico prepare for extreme weather and address inequity at the same time.