Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico mid-September last year, and while much repair progress has been made, at least one-third of the country is still left without electricity.
The cluster of communities left without power is being called the “last mile”, the path the hurricane followed. The local power company has struggled even in good times, and has been working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to restore normalcy since last year. With such a delay in progress, allegations of corruption and poor political decision making have surfaced, with perhaps a lack of a sense of urgency, which mayor of Comerio, Josian Santiago, makes mention of.
Solar Power Resolves Energy Needs
Aegis Renewable Energy, a Vermont based solar installer, along with Amicus Solar Cooperative and Amurtel, a non-profit working in disaster relief, are partnering to build Solar Outreach Systems (SOS) to bring dozens of desperately needed portable solar energy systems to power critical areas in Puerto Rico.
These trailers give power for charging cell phones, as well as a water purification system. Each 12-foot energy pod has six solar panels mounted on the roof, and will be offered for free while these critical needs are unable to be met by the damaged infrastructure. Once Puerto Rico is back to 100% power, the trailers will be able to be shipped to the next disaster zone.
Amurtel has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for more trailers, click here to donate.
Reliance on Generator Power
Most of the hospitals, a number of police and fire stations, and water pumps are still relying on generators provided by FEMA. Even with power coming back to various areas, there is still fear it will be lost after a power plant explosion this past February put almost 1 million people back into darkness.
On top of what seems to be a chaotic mess, another hurricane season is coming quickly while repair crews are working to bring the electric infrastructure back to the way it was – back to a state which cannot withstand a Category 5 storm.
“It’s going to fall again,” said Aníbal Díaz Collazo, a Puerto Rican politician representing Cayey, in the mountains 30 miles south of San Juan. “There will be new cables and new poles but no significant infrastructure improvements for a system that has already proven too weak to withstand.”