After Hurricane Maria clobbered Puerto Rico, the vast majority of the population was left without electricity, and the island’s main utility company said it would take four to six months to restore power to the whole island.
For Elon Musk, technologist and founder of Tesla, that was too long. Elsewhere in the US, such an extensive outage would be unthinkable. He also wondered why Puerto Rico would rebuild the same power grid, if another hurricane like Maria could just destroy it again.
So soon after the hurricane hit, he made what seemed like a wild proposition at the time — Tesla would overhaul the energy grid and bring the island solar energy.
Solar energy is more resilient in the face of extreme weather since it doesn’t depend on massive infrastructure. The decentralized nature of the technology — panels and localized storage systems — allows the power system to morecan quickly recover from storms.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, quickly began working with Musk.
Now solutions are arriving on the island — the first beneficiary of this collaboration is a children’s hospital in the capital San Juan, according to Fortune.
The automaker tweeted out images of the hospital’s new solar power system.
Tesla has been shipping hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems that can store energy generated from solar panels.
Other parts of the island will get hooked up to solar power in the weeks and months ahead, but Musk’s vision of transforming the US territory’s power grid will not be allowed to happen in the near future.
The Puerto Rican government recently awarded a $300 million contract to Whitefish Energy Holdings, a move that has come under fire because the company has never handled a project of this nature and the CEO is a major donor to US President Donald Trump.
Gov. Rossello defended the deal in a statement.
"Of those [contractors] who met the requirements and aggressive schedules to bring brigades, one was asking for a substantial amount of money — which PREPA had no liquidity for — and another did not require it," Rossello said. "That other one is Whitefish.
Currently, just 25% of Puerto Rico has access to electricity.
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