Solar microgrid in Puerto Rico empowers community to take control of energy future

Solar microgrid Puerto Rico

The Honnold Foundation, along with its partners Casa Pueblo and the Community Solar Energy Association of Adjuntas (ACESA), have completed a solar microgrid installation in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.

The project, which is Puerto Rico’s first cooperatively managed, community-owned solar microgrid, includes approximately 700 solar panels that power 14 businesses in seven buildings around the town’s central plaza. The most recently completed part of the three-phase project includes the installation of a 1 MW storage system that uses electric vehicle batteries donated by EV manufacturer Rivian.

Providing a sustainable energy solution with an installed capacity of 187 kW, the microgrid can enable up to 10 days of complete off-grid functionality, resulting in one of the first decentralized community-owned battery storage solution installations in the world.

The establishment of the microgrid came as a response to the elongated service interruptions Adjuntas’ residents face during hurricane season — with some households going 11 months without power. Casa Pueblo is a local nonprofit organization that has been a driving force behind the project. Led by executive director Arturo Massol-Deyá, Casa Pueblo partnered with the Honnold Foundation to help the community in Adjuntas combat social injustice and take control of their energy future, creating a blueprint for other communities to follow.

“This project isn’t just about putting panels on roofs,” said Emily Teitsworth, executive director of the Honnold Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by professional climber Alex Honnold in 2012 to expand equitable solar energy access. “It’s about increasing resilience in the face of the next Hurricane. It’s about making sure that, when the next storm hits, communities never doubt their ability to meet their basic needs. Access to clean energy is a fundamental human right, and this microgrid is a shining example of the change that can be achieved when grassroots organizations and people are empowered.”

The celebration in Adjuntas provides a symbol of hope and empowerment for communities dealing with the repercussions of climate change, which includes increasingly severe storms. Hurricane Maria nearly devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, leaving most of the island’s three million residents without power and water for months. Five years later Hurricane Fiona had a similarly catastrophic impact as much of the island’s infrastructure remains outdated. 

“We hope that our example will inspire others to take action and work towards a future powered by clean energy,” said Massol-Deyá. “The microgrid is not just a technical solution, it is a symbol of the power of community action and collaboration in the face of adversity. As the world continues to grapple with the impacts of climate change. The people of Adjuntas are showing us that a more sustainable and resilient future is possible.”

The success of this microgrid is a testament to the power of grassroots organizations and partnerships and offers a model for other communities to follow. The Honnold Foundation, Casa Pueblo and the ACESA have demonstrated that a more accessible and sustainable energy future is possible through community action and collaboration. The microgrid installation provides hope and inspiration for communities facing the impacts of climate change and the urgent need for resilient and sustainable energy systems.

— Solar Builder magazine



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