Hurricane María produced the longest blackout in U.S. history and left much of Puerto Rico without energy for almost a year. Today, the aging power grid remains in precarious conditions resulting in intermittent power loss across the island. The island needs to upgrade its energy grid, move towards renewable green energy, and be prepared for another emergency that might threaten the existing power and communications sources.
How is Hispanic Federation Helping?
We’re supporting, through partnerships, the creation of reliable and durable green power sources for home and institutional use, including critical facilities, community centers and homes in isolated areas that can serve as disaster relief hubs when future disasters hit.
Who Are We Helping?
Para La Naturaleza (Humacao and Vieques)
Para la Naturaleza knows the critical importance of powering and sustaining community centers that Puerto Ricans can turn to in a crisis. With support from HF, Para la Naturaleza is outfitting two community centers with solar panels and storage batteries. Para la Naturaleza’s goal, in partnership with Resilient Power PR, is to power 100 community centers with solar energy.
Instituto Nueva Escuela (Patillas, Barranquitas and Humacao)
The Instituto is piloting innovative ways to ensure schools can continue to serve the community when disaster strikes. HF has funded the Instituto’s purchase of three Off Grid Boxes, mobile solar and water filtration systems that can provide electricity and portable water to stricken communities. The Instituto, linked to 49 schools serving 12,000 students, will transport these boxes wherever they are needed.
Casa Pueblo (Adjuntas)
Casa Pueblo has been using renewable energy to increase community self-sufficiency for almost four decades. Hispanic Federation (HF) is proud to contribute to its visionary “50%conSOL” campaign, which aims for 50% island-wide solar power usage. HF funding is helping them install local solar system energy hubs in 16 homes, and train residents to become resiliency hubs with power if a blackout occurs. Targeted homes will include families with members at high health risk.
Solar Saves Lives (Island-wide)
Many of the lives lost after María were a result of the inability to access medical services, which was in part due to the lack of energy to power and open medical centers. HF has partnered with the Clinton Foundation, The Solar Foundation, Direct Relief, the Helmsley Charitable Trust and others, to fund the installation of solar and storage at clinics in the network of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs or “330s”) administered by the Asociación de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico. These clinics provide vital health services to one in 10 Puerto Ricans, mostly the uninsured and those most medically vulnerable. These clinics are located throughout the island, including in many remote and rural areas, and many of those clinics suffered from limited access to grid power after Hurricane María. With solar panels and batteries, clinics are powered by clean, renewable energy and have the ability to operate critical functions during times of grid power outages and serve communities during a disaster. In addition to protecting lives and supporting resilience, Solar Saves Lives is boosting the local economy, as local companies have been tapped to perform the installation of solar and storage.
To date, six installations have been fully completed. An additional 10 clinics are in process, with five installations underway and another five due to begin this summer.
All completed installations utilize Tier 1 solar panels and are designed to withstand sustained 145 mph winds.
Solar Libre (Island-wide)
Hurricane María’s devastation revealed a weakened economy and a collapsed energy grid. Yet it also provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent island-wide electrical production and distribution through renewable energy. To this end, HF partnered with Solar Libre to ship more than 2,000 solar panels, including over 100,000 lbs. of inverters, batteries, solar modules and charged controllers. In the first year after María, local volunteer brigades trained by experts from the U.S. and Puerto Rico, installed solar panels and battery storage systems on 100 community centers to become resiliency hubs. Solar Libre has solarized clinics, community centers, water wells, and hydroponic farms across the island. Their training also launched multiple independent brigades, which duplicated their impact across the island. In year two, Solar Libre has launched a formal training program that will provide paid, one-year apprenticeships to university students, with priority to young women, to receive hands-on education in solar energy. The first class of students will install solar panels and battery on more than 200 community centers. The goal is that upon completion from the apprenticeship, students will be qualified to compete for mid-level roles at local solar energy companies where local talent is in high-demand.
Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras (San Juan)
In coordination with the municipality of San Juan, partners including the Clinton Foundation, The Solar Foundation, and Center for Disaster Philanthropy are installing a solar and battery storage system at the Mercado and making basic energy efficiency upgrades for the market to reduce overall energy consumption. The Mercado is the largest produce market in Puerto Rico, and houses services such as a medical clinic. The market provides space for nearly 200 small business owners to operate shops and restaurants. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz identified the market as a candidate for solar energy to ensure the continued operation of businesses, protect the livelihoods of vendors, and safeguard the market's historic and economic role in Río Piedras.