Severe power failures in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean spur new interest in renewables

The ongoing electricity disaster in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria — and on several other Caribbean islands slammed at full force by strong storms — is driving new interest in ways of shifting island power grids toward greater reliance on wind, solar and even, someday, large batteries.

“For the most part, these island grids were completely devastated, and it will be four to six months before most of them can power their islands completely again,” said Chris Burgess, director of projects for the Islands Energy Pprogram at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Adding more renewables, and moving away from centralized power grids to more so-called “microgrids,” could lower costs and increase resilience in the face of storms, several energy experts said. And island nations, already at the forefront of pushing for action on climate change, have been moving this way for a while.

Members states of CARICOM, a consortium of Caribbean nations, already have a goal of reaching 47 percent renewable energy by 2027. The storms now only give greater impetus.

“You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla and the other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines,” said Tom Rogers, a renewable energy expert at Coventry University in Britain who previously was a lecturer in energy at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. “Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead…

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