Silver Linings as Hurricane Maria brings Personal Energy Empowerment

The Caribbean Islands… beaches, sunshine, coconuts, and a laid-back, stress-free attitude. It’s an idyllic existence that many dream of, and some are blessed to be born to, however, there is a time of year that has residents a little less relaxed – hurricane season. In Puerto Rico, the 2017 season brought Hurricane Maria, the most devastating natural disaster in 100 years for the region, leaving much of the island without power for almost a year.  

Damage to infrastructure sent the already struggling, government-owned power company bankrupt, leading to the takeover in 2020 by Luma Energy, and its rebuilding of the island’s infrastructure. The nature of island power generation, imported fuel, and fewer economies of scale, already means residents pay at least twice that of USA mainland-based homes, and rebuilding efforts further increased prices.

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Is there a solution to Puerto Rico’s electricity dilemma? Alejandro Brito, the developer of the new Solaris community in Guaynabo, believes there is, and he’s putting money where his mouth is. Each home in his new community comes standard with 25 high-capacity, solar cells coupled with two Tesla Powerwalls, providing, on average, the equivalent of $6000 of electricity each year. If the main grid goes down, then the home is still powered by the sun and/or the Powerwalls. 

“We’ve always put generator options on our properties, but Hurricane Maria taught us that a whole month of generator power is not enough” says Brito, who is the first developer to provide what he calls “energy empowerment” to Puerto Ricans. By including a complete solar solution, Brito, a second-generation community developer, has taken what many may call a risk on a new technology, but those that deal with day-to-day outages see this is as not just the future – it is now.

From the perspective of Brito, “Today, in Puerto Rico, offering solar as an add-on is like saying running water is optional, so it’s time to make it standard”. It’s clear that while solar may be a difficult choice in many places, in Puerto Rico it pays back quickly while providing a steady supply in a typically unreliable area.

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