After the devastation of Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, residents of the island were left without access to electricity for months. In anticipation of future disasters, the EWB-Greater Austin chapter partnered with Solar Responders to install solar panels and batteries in fire stations throughout Puerto Rico. The goal is to provide reliable power that will support the island’s energy needs when the main systems fail.
The EWB Puerto Rican team will evaluate the fire stations by visiting the sites and performing energy audits, observing for structural deficiencies, and recording other necessary information. This data collection process will help the Solar Responders make the best design decisions for the solar stations. A paid 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 awareness of the project 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 and efficiency 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.
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.
Current Project Status
Due to the pandemic preventing the team from visiting the island, negotiations are underway to change the project scope – energy audits are transitioning from a 3-4 average daily use study to an extended period that evaluates sprawling maximum energy usage. In addition, earthquakes can quickly invalidate previous inspections to the point that the team must coordinate closely with Solar Responders to ensure resolutions will manifest before the process must start again from the beginning. Therefore, time is of the essence.
The Austin portion of the team meets virtually weekly on Tuesdays.
Every 4th Tuesday, the Austin and Puerto Rican teams meet together via Google Meet.
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