Long before the arrival of Hurricane Maria in the lands of Puerto Rico, it was clear that the island’s power system was one of its most vulnerable spots. Puerto Rico had a decrepit and sagging power system which was almost entirely dependent on the use of fossil fuels. The aging and ill-maintained power plants and transmission lines dealt such a tremendous damage by the ravaging hurricane Maria that even after a month later power has been restored to only 21% of the entire island. Struck by the brute force of a Category 4 storm, a majority of 3.4million Puerto Ricans are now left with totally damaged power infrastructure with no scope of refrigeration of food, air condition or pumping of potable water.
Exactly after a week, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced that they are willing to help Puerto Rico in their power failure crisis by sending them and installing the Tesla technology of Powerwall battery packs in the entire island. When asked about the scalability of the product, Musk assured that he had already used a combination of solar panels and Powerpack batteries to provide power to a number of small islands and that there is no scalability limit. The power infrastructure at the Island of Ta’u, can keep the entire island running with over 5000 solar panels and 60 Powerpack batteries. Also a massive solar farm on the chest of Hawaiian island of Kauai, built by Tesla, accounts for up to 20% of the entire island’s peak electricity load.
Tesla has been sending hundreds of Powerpack batteries to the land of Puerto Rico, after the PR government shook hands with the Tesla team and restarted building the power infrastructure from scratch. This labor intensive process, also known as the “black start”, is backed by the resources from several energy storage firms like Tesla, Duracell and Sonnen as well as companies like SunRun and Vivint Solar. The technology used in the rebuilding the power infrastructure into a more resilient one, is not only lucrative and greener but also is very expensive especially for a state in dire economic conditions. The island needs to put in a lot of money and needs to possess a political will to see the project through. The power system using the solar microgrids and Powerpack batteries is assured that it can deal with hurricanes like Maria, in theory, while the Puerto Ricans see it as a way out of darkness.
For completion of this project, Tesla has been put into “production hell” as titled by Musk, causing bottlenecks in the production lines of Tesla Model 3. To push the resources in the making and fixing of problems in Tesla Model 3, the unveiling of Tesla Semi has been pushed to Nov 16. To add another set of pressure, about 400 to 700 people have been fired in the California factory as a result of the review of the company’s Fremont.
While the storm swept away the energy infrastructure of the island, it has also resulted in a huge official death toll of over 48, while the actual one may be over hundreds. Puerto Rico will need a substantial amount of time to recover from the catastrophe but the sight of both parties working together provides a promising sight of a brighter and greener future.
Article by Sushmoy.