Tesla ramped up its effort to help Puerto Rico get power back after its grid was ravaged by hurricanes last month. They quickly started shipping Powerwalls, their home energy storage solution, and we reported that they started shipping Powerpacks, their bigger commercial and utility-scale battery packs, last week.
But Puerto Rico is also looking to rebuild its electric grid longterm and Tesla had its own suggestion about scaling its microgrid technology using batteries and solar power.
A government official now says that they are indeed considering the solution and thinking about launching a competitive bidding process.
After being in talks with Tesla, Department of Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy told Bloomberg that they are considering “a series of micro-grids and regional grids that use solar and battery technology, along with other renewable sources.”
Instead of Puerto Rico’s current centralized power generation with an extensive power distribution network, they would decentralize power generation with local solar farms combined with energy storage.
The solution should prove more resilient to natural disaster and of course, it would be a lot cleaner than their currently mostly fossil fuel-based power generation.
It’s not like solar panels are immune to hurricanes either, but mounting systems are improving and they can sustain some strong wind without too much damage.
Like this solar farm near Isabela, one of the biggest in Puerto Rico, has seen relatively little damage from the hurricanes.
From the satellite images, it looks like less 5% of the solar panels were damaged by the hurricanes.
But the solar farm is useless during the day if it’s not connected to a grid and useless at night if it’s not connected to an energy storage system.
That would be the idea behind a series of microgrids and some regional energy storage installations. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority would be in charge of the transmission, while the companies building the solar farms and energy storage systems would be paid for the electricity delivered.
The situation is starting to look a lot like the process in Australia that resulted in Tesla building the world’s most powerful battery system after the region suffered massive blackouts.
Like the current situation in Puerto Rico, Tesla CEO Elon Musk first discussed with locals on Twitter about using ‘Tesla Energy’ technology to help solve the issues. Later, Tesla officially met with the government, which then started a competitive bidding process.
In the case of the Australian project, over 90 companies have reportedly bid on the system, but Tesla won with its Powerpack solution.
Other companies have also shown interest to help rebuild the Puerto Rican grid, like Sonnen, who like Tesla, started sending battery packs to help locals get the power back on.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Puerto Rico soon announces a framework for a bidding process to start adding energy storage and renewable energy on a bigger scale.