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Puerto Rico ROUNDUP: Solar microgrids, donations and battery-powered clean water pumps

Clinic in Utuado, Puerto Rico. Image: Sonnen.

While on a macro level, problems still beset rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico following hurricanes a year and a half ago, numerous private organisations have been executing projects or distributing products into the island territory from the solar and energy storage sectors.

Energy-Storage.News has received communications from numerous cleantech companies working either on a commercial basis or donating technology to the island’s inhabitants, including residential solar-plus-storage systems and larger installations for local community buildings. In December 2017 for instance, we reported a donation of 6MW of energy storage systems by AES Energy Storage, while the US Department of Energy identified some 200 potential microgrid locations.

Some remote parts of Puerto Rico may not get power back until May, according to US officials, following Hurricanes Maria and Irma, the strongest winds to hit the region since 1928. There have been controversies over the contract awarded to a little-known US outfit, Whitefish Energy, to repair and replace grid networks, while the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was already in financial difficulty long before the hurricanes struck.

Having received various news releases over the past few weeks, here are some notable developments:

SonnenBatterie Eco unit onsite in Puerto Rico. Image: Sonnen.

sonnen completes donated microgrid for clinic

Sonnen has just completed a solar-plus-storage microgrid in a remote, mountainous region, Utuado, for a clinic which has been without running water for more than six months. The Germany-headquartered provider, which specialises in smart, connected home energy storage systems in markets including Germany and Australia and supplies commercial and industrial (C&I) units in the US, created an “entirely off-grid” solution.

The clinic now uses 10kW of rooftop solar from Pura Energia and a small sonnenBatterie Eco unit, which is 8kW / 16kWh and is the 10th such project executed by Sonnen and Pura Energia in Puerto Rico. The microgrids have been donated by the two companies through the del Sol Foundation for Energy Security at a cost of over US$350,000.

Solar Saves Lives seeks further donations

Another NGO, the Solar Foundation, is continuing to solicit donations, including solar equipment and money, for Solar Saves Lives, a campaign to build short-term energy grid resiliency measures for Puerto Rico. The foundation is still seeking equipment and financial donations.

Working with the likes of the Clinton Foundation, Solar Saves Lives is committed to building 12 such installations for clinics across Puerto Rico. One was completed in Maricao during March, including 18kW of solar and 20kWh of batteries, with equipment and services contributed by New Energy, CAM Solar, Soltec, SunPower, and Variety Energy.

Blue Planet at work in the field. Image: Water Mission.

Battery powered clean water from Blue Planet

Solar and storage obviously has a role to play in numerous applications and Hawaii-headquartered Blue Planet Energy has provided its battery energy storage units, Blue Ion, to power clean water pumps for Water Mission, a non-profit organisation on the island.

The Corozal municipality, where the project is based, has lost reliable power since Hurricane Maria made landfall (i.e. passed over land from sea). Blue Planet Energy deployed a 16kWh Blue Ion 2.0 battery unit paired with 7kW of solar PV, at Palos Blancos, a remote neighbourhood in Corozal. The Blue Ion system uses Sony lithium-ion phosphate batteries which enable 100% depth of discharge.

The unit will improve the neighbourhood’s access to clean water and energy, increasing the effectiveness of pumps and enabling charging of other devices, while Water Mission is looking to deploy this or other solutions for 200 Puerto Rican communities.

This article has been amended to disambiguate between Blue Planet Energy, which is carrying out the project, and its affiliated charity, Blue Planet Foundation. 

Blue Planet's Blue Ion unit, which in conjunction with 7kW of solar PV is powering water pumps. Image: Water Mission.

Sunnova launches 25-year contracts for home solar-plus-storage

Residential provider Sunnova claims it has become the first solar company to distribute solar-plus-storage solutions on Puerto Rico. The company is offering a 25-year contract to customers for both PV and battery systems including warranty and performance guarantees.

Sunnova said it has developed a version of its SunSafe system specifically for the Puerto Rican market. It maximises the use of onsite solar generation and according to the company is designed to work when the grid is down or working intermittently. Existing solar customers can get a 10-year financing loan option to add a battery.

Meanwhile, US residential solar leasing company Sunrun said that its BrightBox energy storage units deployed at fire stations in Puerto Rico continued functioning throughout and following the hurricane events.  

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