Several groups and companies have launched initiatives to aid the storm-ravaged island's recovery and its long-term resilience
Is it possible? Can we hope to see the shock doctrine turned on its ear? It would seem to be a perfect opportunity—a literal blank slate— to engineer a power grid for the future, one that is resilient and robust with multiple redundancies. Now if it could be owned by the people and organized as a cooperative, that would be just about perfect
Puerto Rico could be set free of that diesel ball and chain that’s for sure! How bizarre to let corruption in high places condemn the island’s population to an outmoded expensive energy system when solar and wind could provide more jobs and stimulate the island’s recovery. With integrated net metering and universal rooftop solar in conjunction with solar plants and offshore wind farms, the whole island could have free air conditioning every day! Lol
How sad it is that a spiteful old fool is our president at this point in time? A more forward thinking and competent leader would use this tragedy as a means to build the future rather than reinstall the past.
I have an idea for this to create a platform for support for greener living and have some of the software done. I need help, if anyone wants to and has some expertise in social media and socially redeeming campaigns.
ONE BIG QUESTION: what is happening to all of the rubble after these hurricanes? …and after the fires as well…we have to figure this out.
OK, I’m all for this, but there are some serious significant problems that must be tackled for this not to end up as a failure for sustainable solar.
First and foremost: whatever replaces what was destroyed MUST have some expectation of survival in the path of the next cat 4 or even cat 5 storm. Look at the aerial photos of the devastation and ask yourself how wise “rooftop solar” seems to be in the face of the storms likely to sweep across Puerto Rico. Whatever solar panel installations are constructed they should be on or near the ground and built so that they can be protected - covered or removed to shelter - before the arrival of the storm. “Rooftop solar” is NOT the answer.
Yes, distributive and localized generation and use. Again, considering PR’s location in hurricane alley, it makes no sense to install the distribution circuits above ground, like what was just destroyed. Buried electrical cables wherever possible. The main difference between distribution cable that is strung on poles and cable that is buried, is the composition and thickness of the insulation coatings. Find a way to collect, strip, and re-insulate as much of that downed cable as possible for buried installation. If remote villages and hamlets have their own localized generation, then what may be possible to recover and re-purpose may be more than is needed if long distance distribution lines are no longer necessary.
Wind generation installations must similarly be planned and designed for the inevitable next super storm. They must be able to be lowered and secured before the arrival of the storm.
Of course these necessities dictate high up-front costs, the impediment that has plagued renewables since day one. However, it is critical to ask ourselves just what is the true cost of rebuilding the same types of systems that were just destroyed - over and over again? The only alternative is to abandon Puerto Rico, and any and all the islands in the Caribbean, and then the coastal regions of the Florida Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico.
“We” could do this. Or, “we” could continue to be the fucking stupid, greedy, uncaring species Trump and his ilk represent.
Lastly, take a long hard and sober look at the damage to the structures from these latest storms. None of this can be rebuilt in a fashion similar to what was. I personally will contribute whatever charitable donations I can, BUT NOT TO REPLACE IN KIND WHAT WAS SO THOROUGHLY JUST DESTROYED.
Those who helped organize after Katrina said it was people doing together what made sense that helped life continue. Avoid the shock doctrine money trying to flow in and capture all they can. This is great news. Sadly we still have people dying from drinking creek water without much food for a week. They are being helped by private charities while supplies and FEMA sit around doing nothing.
Solar energy has the potential to enable community owned and managed sustainable energy generation.
Many environmental and community activists, in Puerto Rico, have been, and are presently, working to promote stand alone and grid intertied community solar initiatives.
Unfortunately, a community owned and managed approach to energy generation is precisely what Elon Musk is working against. Musk’s business model is about ensuring profits for himself, not the community overall. Past practice shows how Musk uses unethical business practices to eliminate competition. Rather than seeking to promote community ownership/management of sustainable energy generation in Puerto Rico, Musk is looking to capitalize / monopolize from Puerto Rico’s misery. Musk may make Puerto Rico ‘greener’, but his means if doing so is in the spirit of Columbus making the Taino’s ‘civilized’ or the US bringing Puerto Rican’s ‘liberty’ through colonization.
Good to see this kind of help coming to Puerto Rico which has
been so damaged by government corruption enslaving them to debt.
“Community” is the enemy of long distance grids and monopolies.
A Puerta Rico solar transformation would start with rooftop solar and fixed ground arrays, and would involve microgrids, where large amounts of electricity are produced in arrays near the areas where the power will be used. So they will not involve stringing high tension wires around the island, since evert area would have production facilities. In the past month, an existing large solar array in the south (I forget where - Florida?) was damaged in recent hurricanes; a number of panels suffered broken glass due to flying objects. BUT the majority were fine and producing power. Nothing is perfect, but the chances are that a grid dependent on solar and wind will do OK and recover quickly.
The first thing to fly away in the cat 4 winds were the roofs of the homes. Fixed ground installations which have provisions to harden them against very high winds, are a much better idea. And the problem with microgrids is that it does not accommodate climate differences (in Puerto Rico, windward (northeast) and leeward (southwest) sides of the island have very large differences in rainfall and cloud cover - consigns some areas to permanent energy poverty - not to mention the day-to-day variations in sun and wind that have to be accommodated. So yes, a island wide grid is still needed - ideally put underground like many areas of Europe do.
The ideas of localism for renewables in the US would be an even worse idea. I live an a very wind and sun poor area (Ohio River lowlands of SW Pa), By necessity, a lot of renewable electricity for my region is going to have to be imported from other areas - as far away as Kansas on many days.
I do not expect or long for perfection in anything. Watching the news and interviews with survivors in PR I notice that the construction of many of their home structures would be substandard even without the added threat of category 4 or 5 hurricane winds. For a moment forget about the energy problem and just think about the survivability of peoples’ domiciles. The old norms are out the window, new strategies and methods are needed or there should be no expectation of continuity of life in those exposed locations.
As for minor damage to a solar array in Texas or Florida; those locations were not subject to the sustained wind velocities experienced by Puerto Rico and the other islands. Had they been, there would have been a hell of a lot more damage than just a few broken panels. One of the points I was most trying to make is that if this isn’t done with honest awareness of the new realities, it could end up giving another black eye to sustainables.
Gawd almighty, it sure is good to hear some good news about PR and solaring up.
First, Puerto Rico. I accept your variability of viability for the different parts of that island. I know virtually nothing of the geography, geology, commerce, or settlement patterns there. Generally speaking, the future that is upon us may dictate that we as a species migrate to and occupy those areas where these sustainable strategies can and will work.
You know that I live just 40 miles west of your location and it is true by all the reference materials I’ve accumulated in 40 plus years that this region indeed is marginal at best for wind and solar generation. The wind textbooks say that 12mph annual average wind speed (most wind measurements are hybrid units, and not sure I’ve stated that correctly) is what’s necessary for even marginal wind generation, and this region historically just barely attains that threshold. Yes, our average annual count of cloudy days here precludes this region being an exporter of solar generated electricity or even able to supply our own regional needs.
However: even though I haven’t kept a log of wind speeds, directions, and durations over the 27 years we’ve lived here, I am almost certain that both the average annual wind speed and the maximum sustained gusts are now regularly exceeding the historical averages. And even though historical climate patterns are not holding in many locations I notice that in January and February we still experience the clear sunny skies produced by arctic high pressure systems. Those months are the times we could most use that solar input, and when the storms come, wind generation could certainly take up the slack. I can’t tell you how many days and nights I rued the fact that I did not yet have a wind generation plant in operation here, when I could have used that input to replace the heat that was being sucked out of the house structure.
To dismiss localism and microgrids generally or across the board is as big a mistake as believing that those strategies will work everywhere. The all or nothing stance is neither honest nor conducive to problem solving. Many commenters on global warming say that we must eliminate all carbon emissions. That is neither realistic nor attainable. But the longer we prop up the can’t attitude the longer we continue to increase carbon emissions, let alone begin to reduce them.
Of course all of this could be and has been discussed in thousands of books, magazines, and discussions, but one last thought. The efforts of the various fossil fuel industries to squash, limit, and discredit sustainables has in fact, in the long run, been the biggest boon to the sustainables industries because it has forced those industries - the innovators and manufacturers - to continually improve efficiencies, develop new materials and strategies, and bring better products to market, all the while competing for market share in a business environment heavily tilted towards their fossil fuel competitors.
Good points all.
As a retired engineer (EE) and serial entrepreneur, I do not see the technical problem as that a great an impediment. What does concern me are vulture capitalist who come with great promises but likewise deliver great impediments to the projects practical success for those living in the area.
As an example, I point to the demonstrated problems with systems that contain complicated equipment leases. The ‘bite you’ in the tender parts come hidden in the very fine print. Often indenturing your offspring unto the tenth generation.
Since many, if not most, of the buildings, are, for the most part, toast, reconstruction should include both energy efficiency and a bit of windproofing.
In DFW Texas Metro area there have been two residential buildings that, save for water and sewage, 100% off grid. I have no personal knowledge but expect they are likewise storm-hardened (DFW is at the south end of tornado ally.)
First off, if the electric grid is going to be replaced with solar and wind, they are going to half to come up with a way to protect both the solar and wind turbines from high wind storms or the island will be in the same situation after every major storm. Secondly, if the government is planning on changing the way power is generated on the island they should also consider a new form of housing for the people and business of Puerto Rico. Recent studies have shown that buildings made of reinforced concrete in the shape of a dome are almost indestructible in high wind conditions. The Puerto Rican government should also consider this as they rebuild housing and businesses across the island!
Your cautions make god sense and I wold lke to add another. Soar systems (like any system designed to deliver electricity) require constant maintenance and up keep. The idea that when you go “off the grid” you become your own utility company escapes the attention of most folks. Like fossi fuel powered systems, stuff wears out, breaks down and needs constant testing and replacing. Solar is still the better way to go, but must be entered into with one’s eyes wide open,
Puerto Rico should be suing the US gov for all the toxic waste left behind by the military.They should be demanding a right to be represented and have votes that count. And yes GO SOLAR AND WIND.
And hopefully PR will stay clear of wall street…Gov Brown in Calif is trying to hook Calif clean energy with Utah coal all at the request of warren buffet so he can get even richer----
The Allegheny Plateau and ridges just to our east and southeast certainty have wind potential and there is already a lot of wind development in that area, but it is still small compared to the plains states. Post-frontal winter weather tends to be fairly cloudy with snow showers due to lake effect unless lake Erie freezes over solid like it did in 2015. Pittsburgh is right near the bottom for winter sunshine - only Cleveland and Buffalo (and maybe Seattle) being a bit worse.
I wary of the philosophy of localism just for the sake of localism - and especially the overly individualistic, anti-solidarity, “off the grid” thinking. A robust continent-wide smart grid - using HV DC transmission for longer distances, is going to be needed in any 100% renewable scenario, to take advantage of variability of wind and sun over a continent-wide area. I find the aversion to such things among leftists to be odd.