In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, leaving residents of the island without access to electricity for months – including first responder stations. In response to this tragedy, the EWB-GA chapter partnered with the New York-based nonprofit Solar Responders to install solar panels and batteries in fire stations throughout Puerto Rico. The goal is to provide reliable power to support the island’s energy needs when the central power systems fail.
The EWB Puerto Rico team will evaluate the fire stations by visiting the sites, performing energy audits, observing structural deficiencies, and recording other necessary information – aiding Solar Responders in making the best design decisions for the solar installations. An engineering firm will design the system using the reports prepared by the EWB team, and a contractor will install and maintain the system. Additionally, the EWB-GA team is arming the Solar Responders with the tools to increase project awareness and cultivate relationships with other engineering organizations for collaboration.
This project is essential due to the unreliability of the Puerto Rico energy grid. In times of crisis, the lack of power available to first responders impedes the delivery of emergency services. By paving the way for solar power supply for the stations, we are helping to save future Puerto Rican lives.
The island demographic is approximately 3,193,694 English and Spanish-speaking citizens. 43.5% of the population live on earnings below the poverty line, with a median household income of $20,166 USD.
Puerto Ricans often refer to themselves as “Boricua.” Puerto Rican culture has roots in the original Taíno tribes, Spanish colonial culture, and Afro-Cuban influences. While the island has original Spanish colonial architecture standing today, some authentic Taíno villages still exist as well.
Current Project Status
In January and February 2022, the EWB Greater Austin team performed structural and energy inspections at six fire stations in Morovis, Orocovis, Ciales, Barceloneta, Utuado, and Arecibo.
The energy inspections performed were far more comprehensive than previous inspections – the audit will allow the solar power system design to accommodate a maximum load scenario rather than supplying only the monthly daily average load for a particular fire station.
Solar Responders favor this maximum load scenario. Under the new audit scope, the solar system installations can supply power to the fire station for an extended period of months and possibly for community needs during the same period.
The Austin team meets virtually every Tuesday.
Every 4th Tuesday, the Austin and Puerto Rican teams meet together via Google Meet.
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