Energy Study Urges Solar Panels on Rooftops in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Solar panels should be installed at airports, brownfields or industrial areas since there’s not enough available land for large-scale installation of wind generators, the preliminary results of a U.S. government study aimed at helping Puerto Rico shift to clean energy said Monday.

The two-year study that began last year followed a U.S. government pledge to help modernize Puerto Rico’s disintegrating grid by looking at the amount of wind and solar resources on the island, land availability and the consumption of power.

Amid the threat of powerful hurricanes, Puerto Rico has suffered from constant power outages blamed on a disintegrating power grid.

The island’s current power generation system is 97% based on fossil fuels, leading many to question how the U.S. territory will be able to reach a 40% renewable energy target by 2025 and 60% by 2040 as promised by government officials.

The study also simulated hurricanes and found that smaller renewable resources spread out tend to recover faster than the current system of fewer and larger power plants. Hurricane Maria razed Puerto Rico’s power grid in September 2017 when it struck the island as a Category 4 storm and Hurricane Fiona battered it when it hit in September last year as a Category 1 storm. Both hurricanes caused an island-wide power grid failure.

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A senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy said the $1 billion approved by U.S. Congress in December to help restore Puerto Rico’s grid is not sufficient. U.S. President Joe Biden had sought $3 billion, and federal lawmakers had requested $5 billion for solar rooftop panels and storage installations.

The final study, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be published by year’s end.

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