Environmentalists say renewable energy should play a role in rebuilding Puerto Rico's trashed electric grid, but recent photos of the island obtained by the Washington Examiner show that its utility-scale solar arrays are in tatters, and its wind turbine blades are shredded or missing in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Fifty-percent of Puerto Rican households were out of power for two months, making it the longest sustained electrical outage in the history of the United States.
The Rocky Mountain Institute issued a report recently that showed Puerto Rico's renewable resources have remained relatively small, but there is enormous opportunity to build out a renewable grid.
The report, which the wind industry has recently latched onto, primarily looked to beat back myths about the cost of renewables and reliability problems.
The report focused on costs being competitive with conventional power plants, and concerns about reliability being overcome by pairing wind turbines with large batteries. But the study and the industry failed to consider the fragility of renewable resources in their ability to survive a record-breaking hurricane.
"Puerto Rico’s largest renewable facility today is Santa Isabel, a 101.1 megawatt Pattern Energy-developed wind farm built in 2012 on the south side of the island," explained Peter Kelley, vice president for public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, in a blog post last week. "Its turbines and substations made it through the hurricanes intact," he said, while explaining that the "eastern tip, where Maria made landfall, another developer’s 26-MW Punta Lima did suffer damage."
Discussions on rebuilding the grid are expected to intensify in the beginning of 2018.