Powering the Río Piedras Market

Commitment by The Solar Foundation

In 2018, The Solar Foundation and their partners including the Municipality of San Juan, the Clinton Foundation, and others committed to install a solar + storage system to address the need for reliable, resilient energy at the Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The market is the largest produce market in Puerto Rico, and provides livelihoods for nearly 200 vendors who operate small businesses at the market. Since Hurricane Maria, the insecure energy situation in Puerto Rico has undermined these vendors' ability to do business, leading to product losses and reduced customer numbers. To address this issue, the commitment partners, with support from the Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, will install 250kW of solar power on the market, along with a 500kWh battery, to ensure the market's ability to operate fully despite interruptions to grid power. To increase the efficacy of the system, the partners will also perform energy efficiency upgrades, such as replacing the market's energy-intensive lighting system with LED lighting. This commitment is part of the Solar Saves Lives initiative, launched in November 2017 to support the mobilization and delivery of solar + storage solutions to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.



Powering the Río Piedras Market



Est. Duration

1 Years

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean



Commitment by

The Solar Foundation

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Municipality of San Juan; Operation Blessing International; Hispanic Federation; Center for Disaster Philanthropy; Clinton Foundation

To address the need for consistent and resilient energy access at the Río Piedras market, The Solar Foundation is committing to install a solar + storage system on the market. In partnership with the Municipality of San Juan, New Energy Puerto Rico, Operation Blessing, and the Clinton Foundation, The Solar Foundation will mobilize donations of necessary equipment and funds to complete the installation of a 250kW solar system on the market, along with 500 kWh amount of battery storage, which will offset approximately 11% of the market's energy consumption and safeguard the operations of critical functions such as refrigeration. To ensure maximum efficacy of the solar installation, the partners will also perform energy upgrades at the market to reduce overall energy consumption. The partners will begin this process in July 2018 by replacing energy-intensive lighting in order of greatest impact in the market with high-efficiency LED lights. Subsequently, the partners will begin the installation of the first stage of the solar PV system. The Solar Foundation will lead the mobilization and delivery of donated equipment for this initiative; New Energy Puerto Rico will provide solar assessments, designs, and installation; Operation Blessing will provide additional support with donations; the Municipality of San Juan will provide municipal labor and expertise for energy efficiency upgrades; and the Clinton Foundation will provide project management services for the duration of the project. This commitment is part of the Solar Saves Lives initiative, launched in November 2017 by The Solar Foundation and the Clinton Foundation to deliver and install solar equipment to restore energy to critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

July 2018: Shipment of LEDs from the mainland US to San Juan. August 2018: In partnership with the Municipality of San Juan, energy-efficient lighting upgrades will be performed at the market. September 2018: Solar PV modules will be shipped to San Juan. A fundraising appeal for in-kind and monetary donations to procure racking and other equipment will be conducted in parallel. By end of 2018 the aim is to raise $785,000 to procure the remaining materials necessary for this project. Construction would then take approximately 3-4 months.


Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, leaving the entire population without electricity; ten months after the storm, at least one thousand customers are still without grid power, and the whole island continues to experience blackouts and inconsistent energy supply. The electricity situation on the island poses a major economic challenge to business owners who rely on dependable access to energy to operate their businesses. Low-income and small business owners are particularly vulnerable to interruptions to grid power, as they often lack the capital to bounce back from shocks such as natural disasters or to take on the cost of operating diesel generators. It was estimated that nine months after Hurricane Maria, at least 5,000 of Puerto Rico's approximately 45,000 small businesses remained closed. The Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras is the largest produce market in Puerto Rico. The market also houses key services such as a clinic. A key economic driver in the historic Río Piedras neighborhood of San Juan, in which commerce has become increasingly depressed in recent years as a result of the island's economic crisis and other factors, the market provides a space for nearly 200 small business owners to operate shops and restaurants. Business owners at the market have reported that the insecure energy situation following Maria has discouraged shoppers from coming to the market, causes product loss for food vendors, and generally undermines their operations. For these reasons, the Municipality of San Juan identified the market as a priority for solar energy in order to ensure the continued operation of businesses in the market, protect the livelihoods of the market's vendors, and protect the market's historic role in Río Piedras.

Partnership Opportunities

December 2018 The partners are seeking additional in-kind and funding resources for future phases of the installation. The Solar Saves Lives partners can offer pro-bono services to organizations in Puerto Rico who need solar power, including the small business owners and residents who frequent the Rio Piedras market.

Progress Reports

December 2018

The partners have continued to make steady progress on the project over the past several months. The partners procured the first phase of LEDs and the Municipality of San Juan oversaw the installation of these lights in the market in October and November 2018. Municipal staff replaced nearly 700 lights with LEDs during this process. The partners are in the process of procuring additional LEDs in order to upgrade all of the lights in the market to LEDs.

The solar + storage installation has now been fully funded, thanks to two grants from the Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) totaling $1.1 million. The majority of these grants will directly support the equipment (250kW of solar panels and a 475kWh battery) and installation costs, while a portion of the CDP grant will create a solar workforce training program for 50 people, which will be managed by The Solar Foundation.

As of late November 2018, the partners have moved forward with procuring equipment and anticipate that the installation itself will begin before year end. New Energy designed the solar + storage system and will carry out the installation. Once installed, the solar + storage system will ensure a consistent power supply for the business owners who operate kiosks in the public market plaza. Pro-bono project management is provided for the project by the Clinton Foundation.