In order to ensure the accessibility and continuity of emergency services to people across Puerto Rico in the case of a major storm, Empowered by Light (EBL) will develop, project manage, and donate a 44-kilowatt solar system at the Emergency Operations Center, paired with 270-kilowatt-hours of energy storage. Under normal operation, this solar and storage system provides 32 hours of total backup time. This will ensure backup power to 24 computers, 12 screens, the server, communications equipment, and other essential appliances. This microgrid project will also include a secondary utilization of an existing diesel generator for additional backup resiliency. EBL will partner with the local Engineering, Procurement, and Construction firm, Aireko Energy Group, to install the installation.
Aireko has donated $30,000 of in-kind labor. NantEnergy has contributed the 270-kilowatt-hour energy storage system. EBL has allocated $100,000 of its own resources towards this project. Solar Responders will contribute $43,754 towards the project in funding.
Once the system is installed, three first responders that operate the EOC will be trained to maintain the system. Additionally, an emergency response plan will be developed so that the EOC staff can ensure the solar and storage system operates continuously in the case of a major grid outage.
EBL has led the fundraising effort for the EOC Project, managed the relationships and negotiations with all partners, and liaised with the Puerto Rico Fire Department. EBL will oversee the design of the project, reviews of the technical proposals, and development of appropriate agreements to ensure the smooth execution of the full system.
June 2019: Completion of the designs of the solar and storage system; Coordination with EOC staff around installation timelines; Coordination with funding partners; Delivery of battery storage system.
July 2019 to August 2019: Aireko completes the installation of the solar and battery system with project management support from Zayas Engineering and EBL.
August 2019 to September 2019: Zayas Engineering conducts training of facility managers; EBL works with EOC staff to develop of appropriate disaster preparedness plan; EBL coordinates with partners for media announcement of project.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and left more than 90% of the island without power. In 2018, the official death toll became 2975 people, many of whom died due to a combination of existing health problems and a lack of access to life-saving electricity.
Hurricane Maria demonstrated that the ability of Puerto Rico’s fire fighters and other first responders to serve people in need is significantly impaired in times of natural disasters. When the central grid fails, fire stations and other critical facilities are without power for significant periods of time and they are unable to receive 911 emergency calls. Furthermore, due to the poor condition of the island’s electrical grid, many critical facilities have continued to experience frequent power outages – post Hurricane Maria. Perhaps the most important critical facility on the island, the Emergency Operations Center is both key to the coordinated emergency response process in Puerto Rico and also an essential component in building greater resiliency for the island.
Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is the primary coordinating facility for all emergency response following a major emergency or natural disaster, including coordination of Fire, Police and Coast Guard units. The EOC is also the communications hub and dispatch center for all first responders, routing more than 100 emergency calls a day. The EOC was left without reliable electrical service for several months after the Hurricane, instead utilizing an unreliable diesel generator.
The lack of power at the EOC has, in part, been blamed for the slow response in emergency efforts and coordination across the island following the storm. Immediately following Maria, Governor Rosselló arrived at the EOC to oversee emergency operations, only to find out that power was down, no emergency calls could be received, and no communication to the mainland US was possible.