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As Puerto Ricans continue to suffer without power in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Tesla and other companies are proposing alternative solutions.
Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents lost power after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 store, destroyed the island’s electric grid. It may take six months before Puerto Rico can repair the power grid, leading the government to consider other remedies in the interim.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said Friday that representatives are “exploring opportunities” to use Tesla’s commercial batteries and solar panels to restore power.
It’s a big undertaking for the electric automaker, which is using the occasion to increase battery production. But Tesla has already successfully built similar systems on other islands – here’s how:
Tesla is proposing building a microgrid in Puerto Rico. A microgrid, as the name suggests, is a local energy grid that can operate independently of the main power system.
So in the case of Puerto Rico, it could operate before the government rebuilds the main power grid, which officials have said could take as long as six months.
Tesla has built microgrids in cities and small islands using a combination of its Powerpack batteries and solar panels. To put it simply, the panels capture solar energy, which is then stored in the Powerpacks and converted into electricity.
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For example, Tesla’s microgrid in Ta’u, an island in American Samoa, is composed of 5,329 solar panels and 60 Powerpack batteries. It’s capable of collecting enough solar energy to power the island for three days straight.
A microgrid does rely on the main power grid during times of high demand, so it doesn’t always operate independently. The Powerpacks are designed to draw energy from the grid when utility rates are low to help cut electricity costs.
In Puerto Rico, however, the microgrid would likely operate autonomously to supply power until the main electrical system is up-and-running.
The Powerpack is composed of 16 individual battery pods, built with a cooling and heating system adopted from the Model S. It weighs 3,575 pounds and can store up to 200 kWh of energy per pack.
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Tesla acquired SolarCity, a solar panel installation company, in November 2016. The merger allows Tesla to build the entire microgrid without outsourcing from another company.
Tesla has struck deals with several utilities for its microgrid projects.
Tesla is building the world’s biggest battery system in South Australia, which will store energy from a local wind farm to provide electricity in areas prone to power outages.
Tesla also built a microgrid in the Hawaiian island of Kauai, pictured above, that’s expected to reduce fossil fuel use by approximately 1.6 million gallons per year.
Musk and Rossello are still hammering out the details for a Puerto Rico microgrid, but we should expect to hear more soon. Tesla is ramping up battery production for the project and is continuing to send smaller, residential batteries, called the Powerwall, to the island.
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