The blackout in Puerto Rico is now the worst in US history with at least 80 percent of Puerto Rico still without electricity, and about a quarter of the island still lacking clean drinking water. Experts say the entire power grid needs to be rebuilt and that could take at least six months. Congress recently approved a $36.5 billion emergency spending plan to fund the recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The spending plan gives Puerto Rico access to $4.9 billion in loans. The plan also gives billions to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program. A contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is in place to restore parts of Puerto Rico’s devastated electrical power grid.
CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, donated a quarter million dollars of his own money to relief efforts in Puerto Rico. He also sent a few hundred Powerwall battery packs to the island where the electric grid was destroyed by hurricanes last month. Tesla’s Powerwall can bring individual rooftop solar installations back online for homes and small businesses.
The Powerwall battery packs were sent to help restore power to areas most needed like hospitals that have been running on unreliable generators since the storms hit. The company also provided certified employees to help install the batteries, and Musk pledged that even more qualified workers would be sent from the mainland to train local installers and combat opportunistic price gougers on the island. The Powerpacks are on loan for free during the crisis, paving the way for the possibility of a deal that could make that donation permanent. The Powerpacks can serve as grid storage during Puerto Rico’s transitional period and is helpful in remote locations like Puerto Rico, where all fuel has to be brought in by cargo ship.
Musk recently held talks with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello on ways for Tesla Energy to help rebuild the power grid destroyed by the hurricanes. Soon after the talks, shipments of another of Tesla’s products were seen at the San Juan airport. Tesla’s Powerpack units can store large amounts of energy generated by the sun and other means, to the island. They have the potential to bring larger parts of the grid online by working with the electric utilities and combining the energy storage systems with solar farms or other renewable energy sources. A single Powerpack 2 battery pack has the same energy capacity (210 kWh) as almost 16 Powerwall 2 battery packs combined (each 13.5 kWh).
The 3,575-pound Powerpacks have been used in Tesla’s projects on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and American Samoa’s Ta’u to create sustainable power grids. The units could conceivably be pressed into service in Puerto Rico to help rebuild the grid using what power can be produced. Building a brand-new energy grid based on Tesla’s tech would take far longer than a few months and would require a large number of Powerpacks. The Kauai project, which is on a much smaller scale, depends on a network of more than 270 units. Still, Musk has helped restore power to more than a few of Puerto Rico’s hospitals in a time of crisis.