Puerto Rico rebuild: Solar, efficiency projects underway at San Juan’s largest market

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Solar installation and energy efficiency upgrades at the Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are underway, according to officials from The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and the municipality of San Juan. The Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan is the largest produce market on the island, responsible for the livelihoods of 200 small business owners. Since Hurricane Maria, the energy situation has led to an unstable business environment, product losses, and fewer customers for these vendors.

The Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy have committed two grants totaling $1.1 million in funding for the project, which will also include installation of solar panels and batteries for the market. This work, being undertaken through the Solar Saves Lives initiative led by The Solar Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, is being done at the request of, and in close coordination with, the Municipality of San Juan. In addition, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy grant creates an apprenticeship program for local workers to learn skills related to solar installation, roofing, and electrical work, which will help promote local workforce development.

“Time of crisis call for us to reach out and forge alliances to pull resources together and achieve a common goal,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “We are honored that the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have been instrumental in galvanizing this much need donation which will lead the way in transforming the largest produce market in San Juan and Puerto Rico. Having access to solar energy will ensure dozens of small business owners will not to be hostage to an unreliable electrical infrastructure. The way of the future is made possible today by those that believe we are all entitled to better life.”

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The first phase includes the installation of 700 units of LED lighting in the market. In the coming months, future phases will include the installation of 250-kW of solar panels on the market; a 475-kWh battery to help the market operate in the event of interruptions to the grid; and additional energy efficiency upgrades.

“This effort is directly helping the people of the Rio Piedras community – making the market more resilient against future hurricanes, while also more sustainable and less reliant on energy from fossil fuels,” said Kevin Thurm, CEO of the Clinton Foundation. “We acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of the Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the coordination of Mayor Cruz and the municipality of San Juan, and the work of all our partners through the Solar Saves Lives initiative. This project is a clear example of the progress we can make when philanthropy, business, and government work together.”

Since the initial announcement, the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have worked in close coordination with Mayor Cruz and the Municipality to carry out site assessments and finalize the planning and project management for initial phases of the project. As the damage to the market has been fully assessed, the cost and size of the project has become greater than initially anticipated. With the widespread devastation not only from Hurricane Maria but also from the 2017 hurricane season more broadly, there has been great regional demand for philanthropic support which has made securing funding for specific projects more challenging.

“This project combines so many efforts to support the Río Piedras community – driving economic development, lowering energy consumption, empowering small businesses, and promoting sustainability and resiliency,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. “These types of installations are a perfect example of the types of investments we need to make in Puerto Rico’s future, and the Hispanic Federation is excited to be supporting this incredibly important effort to install solar equipment and energy efficiency upgrades at the Río Piedras Market.”

These installations will be done by New Energy, and facilitated by The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and Operation Blessing through the Solar Saves Lives initiative, a joint program formed in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricane season to coordinate the delivery and installation of solar and battery storage equipment to areas of urgent need. New Energy is providing the materials and labor for installation at cost.

— Solar Builder magazine

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