Using solar energy and storage to build a resilient Puerto Rico, powered by the sun

Puerto Rico is rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which left millions of people without power. More than three years later, the need for reliable electricity is greater than ever.

Solar energy and battery storage is helping to meet these energy needs and build a stronger, more resilient Puerto Rico.

Solar Saves Lives is an initiative led by The Solar Foundation to install solar and battery storage at health clinics, community centers, and other critical locations in Puerto Rico. We are proud to coordinate this effort with our partners including the Hispanic Federation, Direct Relief, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust,he Rockefeller Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and local solar companies and organizations in Puerto Rico.

The hurricanes struck Puerto Rico in 2017, but the recovery is ongoing. We are committed to being a part of this recovery, and we stand ready to respond to other disasters throughout the world as we face the impacts of climate change.

Update, Fall 2020: All our pending solar energy installations at Puerto Rico health clinics have been completed! As such, we are no longer soliciting donations for the Solar Saves Lives program. We are grateful to all foundations, industry partners, and individuals who generously gave time and resources to help build solar energy resilience in Puerto Rico. We remain engaged on the island through the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator, a program to catalyze solar industry expansion and workforce development. We’re also continuing to seek opportunities to develop solar and storage at clinics and other vital community centers in Puerto Rico. If you would like to make a general contribution to support The Solar Foundation’s work in Puerto Rico and other programs to accelerate clean energy growth, make a tax-deductible donation here

Making Health Centers Resilient Through Solar

The hurricanes cut off electricity and disrupted access to health care for millions of people. For the future, it will be absolutely critical to ensure that health centers continue to serve their patients even if the power grid goes down.

Solar Saves Lives partners are helping meet this need by installing solar and battery systems at community health clinics throughout Puerto Rico. These health centers are part of the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association Network, a nonprofit system of health centers that are dedicated to providing services to those without insurance or ability to pay. Many of these clinics are in remote areas and are the only source of health care for the surrounding population.

These installations are taking place in partnership with the Asociación de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico, with installation by local solar installers and project management by the Clinton Climate Initiative. Funding comes from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Direct Relief, Hispanic Federation, and individual contributions from the public.

Your generous donations helped pay for the equipment, shipping, and installation. Clean, affordable solar energy will reduce their electricity bills and free up resources for other needs. 

Spotlight Clinics

COSSMA Las Piedras

Our Solar Saves Lives initiative completed a solar and battery storage installation at COSSMA Las Piedras, a nonprofit clinic in Puerto Rico. This clinic is part of the Federally Qualified Health Center network, which serves over 1,000,000 low income patients across its locations. The new system will provide backup for critical services such as medicine storage, vaccines, emergency lights, and the pharmacy computer and laboratory.  After the 4,000 excess deaths in Puerto Rico due to lack of access to medical care and electricity after Hurricane Maria, these installations are of critical importance. The installation includes a 187 kW solar system and a 456 kWh Tesla Powerpack battery.

Thanks to our funders at The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, as well as the Hispanic Federation, Clinton Climate Initiative, and the installer ISO Solar Puerto Rico for making this possible. We are committed to replicating this success story at many other medical centers in Puerto Rico.    

Concilio de Salud Integral de Loiza

Located in the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, the Concilio de Salud Integral de Loiza serves a historically under-resourced population that includes a large percentage of Afro-Puerto Ricans. The clinic provides essential medical services such as pre-natal care, immunizations, pediatrics, and dental. The vast majority of patients do not use private health insurance.

Solar Saves Lives partners completed the installation of a 270 kW solar system and a 475 kWh battery. In a state-of-the-art microgrid arrangement, a special controller will calibrate the system to draw electricity from the battery or a separate generator, as needed, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of power. During any disruption to the power grid, the system will power vital services including the emergency room, pharmacy, medication storage and lighting.  Meanwhile, when the power is on, the solar microgrid will be able to generate enough electricity to save about $7,000 per month on their electricity bills. That is well over $2 million in savings over the expected lifetime of the project, helping the clinic achieve its mission to promote health and well being in the communities it serves.

Funding was provided by the Hispanic Federation, and by The Solar Foundation through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The installation was project managed by the Clinton Climate Initiative and installed by EP Energy, with operations and maintenance to be carried out by AZ Engineering, both local solar engineering companies.

Atlantic Medical Center, Barceloneta

In the summer of 2019, we worked with our partners to complete a 263 kW solar installation on the rooftop of the Atlantic Medical Center in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, including 144 kWh in battery storage. As the main health clinic for this municipality on the northern coast of the island, the clinic now serves over 14,000 unique patients per year. During Hurricane Maria, the hospital lost power for 33 days and relied on a diesel generator to operate. The aftermath of the clinic has prompted the clinic to pursue additional measures to increase the facility’s resilience.

The new solar and battery system has ensured the clinic will continue to provide essential health services when the power grid goes down. On top of that, it’s saving the clinic an average of $4,500 per month in energy costs. “We needed to ensure continuity of care for our patients,” says Leida Nazario, the clinic’s executive director. “This system enabled that.”

Recently, this system was tested during a series of earthquakes in late December and early January, which once again cut off power throughout the island. With the help of the solar panels and battery, the clinic was able to keep the lights on and provide care without interruption.

Watch the Video

Salud Integral de Montaña, Orocovis

Hurricane Maria devastated the remote community of Orocovis, leading to prolonged power outages and cutting off access to clean water. In this largely rural area in the heart of Puerto Rico’s Central Mountain Range, Solar Saves Lives partners helped the community rebuild and preserve access to essential health services in the face of interruptions to the power grid. These partners installed a robust solar energy and battery storage system at the Salud Integral de Montaña, a clinic that serves 10,000 unique patients each year. At the clinic, important medical services are offered to a rural population that is rather vulnerable to geographic isolation, including the threat of landslides and historically unreliable electric and water infrastructure. The system includes a 136 kW solar array installed by ISO Solar Puerto Rico, and a 456 kWh Tesla Powerpack battery.

Project funders and partners include The Solar Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Hispanic Federation, and the Clinton Foundation. Special thanks also goes to several organizations and individuals who hosted a 2018 fundraiser in Connecticut to support this project. Organizers of this event include the ICC Environmental Action Committee, the Interreligious Eco Justice Network, The Green Bank, Solar for All, Hoffman Auto Group, CT Puerto Rican Agenda, and Claro Inc.

Centro de Servicios Primarios de Salud, Patillas

Located in the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico, the Patillas municipality is home to remote, low-income communities where job opportunities can be scarce. The primary medical center for this region is the Centro de Servicios Primarios de Salud. This clinic offers primary care, immunization, dental services, mental health, and an emergency room, among other medical services. The clinic serves many elderly patients, the majority of whom are on Medicaid, and often provides transportation for those who have difficulty accessing care.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Southeast of Puerto Rico and left a major impact on the region. Power was not restored until around five months after the storm, and until then, buildings were forced to rely on generators. To build resilience against future disasters, Solar Saves Lives partners completed a solar and storage installation at the clinic to ensure basic medical services continue uninterrupted. The installation includes a 97.9 kW solar array installed by ISO Solar Puerto Rico, and a 228 kWh Tesla Powerpack battery. Project funders and partners include The Solar Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Hispanic Federation, and the Clinton Foundation.

COSSMA Yabucoa

A municipality on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico, Yabucoa was in the direct path of Hurricane Maria when it made landfall in September 2017. Homes, businesses, and community centers were destroyed, and residents were left without power for months. At the health clinic COSSMA Yabucoa, Solar Saves Lives partners installed a solar and storage system to ensure that basic medical services continue even if the electricity grid goes down. The system includes a 62 kW solar installation installed by Pura Energía, and a 170 kWh NEC battery. The system will cover 60% of the clinic’s load, including one AC unit in the emergency section and all refrigeration. Project funders and partners include The Solar Foundation, Direct Relief, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the Clinton Foundation.

Migrant Health Center, Maricao

In 2017, we completed a solar and storage installation at the Migrant Health Center in Maricao, one of several medical centers in remote areas that is in urgent need of reliable electricity. Solar Saves Lives partners installed 18 kW of solar power and 20 kWh of batteries on this clinic. This was made possible through generous contributions by Soltec, Variety Energy, and New Energy Puerto Rico. Justine Burt of Palo Alto, California and the nonprofit GETCHARGEDUP led a successful crowdfunding effort to support this project.

With this installation, the only clinic in this remote region is now energy independent and more resilient. Watch our video below to learn more about the Migrant Health Center installation.

Other Completed Solar Installations

Additional clinics where our partners have completed installations include the following solar and battery storage projects. These installations were funded by Direct Relief.

San Juan — Profamilias Clinica Celestina Zalduondo: A 25 kW solar PV system and 40 kWh battery. 

Las Marías — Migrant Health Center Western Region: A 34.7 kW solar PV system and 40 kWh battery. 

Utuado — Corporacion de Servicios Medicos Primarios y Prevención de Hatillo: A 15.8 kW solar PV system and 20 kWh battery. 

San Juan — Profamilias Clinica Iella: A 19.5 kW solar PV system and 40 kWh battery. 

Guayama — Centro de Salud Familiar Dr. Julio Palmieri Ferri, Inc.: A 43.6 kW solar PV system and 40 kWh battery. 

 

Mapping Our Progress

Our partners at Direct Relief created this interactive map of completed and pending solar and storage projects in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. Check out the map below!

 

Solar Saves Lives is part of The Solar Foundation’s larger initiative to build resilient communities, harnessing the power of solar and solar + storage technologies. Learn more about The Solar Foundation.

Building Puerto Rico’s Solar Workforce

Solar energy is expanding rapidly in Puerto Rico, opening up a need for more solar workers. The Solar Foundation leads the new Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator in partnership with Pathstone Corporation, Inc. and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. This program will expand and strengthen the Puerto Rican solar industry and spur the development of a highly qualified workforce. The Solar Foundation and partners are working collaboratively with Puerto Rican solar companies to improve financing for solar projects and support a robust workforce pipeline. The team will also develop two solar and storage microgrid development pilots.