By: Lisa Cohn, HeatSpring Magazine
See original blogpost on HeatSpring's website here.
A large portion of Puerto Rico was blacked out after earthquakes in early January, but solar plus storage systems helped keep power flowing in many schools that served as community shelters.
In a contract with the American Red Cross, Blue Planet Energy is working to equip more than 100 schools across Puerto Rico with battery systems that are charged with solar energy. The contracts were signed in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which wiped out the island’s electric grid in September 2017, leaving some without power for more than a year.
About 50 schools are now operating with the systems, which keep power flowing in the midst of disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
After the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico, 600 people were sheltered in one of the schools with systems installed by Blue Planet, says Kennedy. Not only do the solar plus storage systems serve as community shelters, they act as mission control centers for non-governmental organizations that are focusing on disaster relief efforts, finding supplies and communicating recovery plans.
The Red Cross asked Blue Planet to divide the school projects into two separate areas, one focused on providing power for critical infrastructure such as kitchens, refrigeration and water pumping. A second load consists of plug loads and lights that allow community members to charge their phones and computers, Kennedy says.
“Innovative initiatives such as the Solar Schools Project provide a roadmap to resiliency for other communities in the U.S. and beyond to follow,” said a press release from Blue Planet.
Resiliency is an important benefit of solar plus storage; more and more, communities are beginning to look for ways to stay resilient in the face of disaster, says Kennedy.
Businesses–especially those that need refrigeration–are also becoming interested in resiliency.
Kennedy explains the advantages of resiliency to businesses by helping them calculate the benefit of keeping power flowing.
“We are gradually developing metrics on how to financially value resilency,” says Kennedy. First, he asks customers to put a value on each hour of business. For example, a grocery store that’s open 4,000 hours a year might make $1 million a year.
“I ask what frozen food stock is worth. Let’s say it’s $84,000. I ask the client to think about what an hour of business continuity is worth,” he says.
Another market for resiliency is hospitals, which need clean backup sources of energy.
“We are seeing that almost all hospitals have backup generators,” he says. In California, these generators no longer comply with air quality and carbon cutting regulations. “They are faced with the decision of throwing out generators and installing new equipment. This is an opportunity to use energy storage to meet that need in hospitals,” he says.
Ideally, islands of resiliency would be dotted across cities and towns, says Kennedy. “They could be in fire stations, police stations, schools, libraries and civic centers. This is a great benefit for a city or town to offer its people. When disaster hits, there’s a place to go.”
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