The Biden administration has launched discussions with solar energy companies and nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico regarding potential awards totaling up to $440 million. These funds are earmarked for the deployment of rooftop solar and battery storage systems in the commonwealth, which has faced severe grid disruptions due to storms in recent years. The announcement was made by the U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday.
This allocation represents the initial segment of a $1 billion fund established through legislation signed by President Joe Biden in late 2022. The primary objectives of this fund are to enhance energy resilience for Puerto Rico's most vulnerable households and communities while supporting the territory's ambitious goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized the life-saving potential of this investment, stating, “Plain and simple, this investment will save lives, all while providing local, good-paying jobs and advancing Puerto Rico's clean energy transition.” Secretary Granholm has been actively engaging with the community, having visited the island multiple times to discuss the fund's objectives and the enhancement of the grid, both in urban areas and remote locations.
The Energy Department has initiated discussions with three prominent companies, Generac Power Systems, Sunnova Energy, and Sunrun, which may collectively receive up to $400 million for the deployment of residential solar and battery systems. Additionally, nonprofit organizations and cooperatives, including Barrio Electrico and the Environmental Defense Fund, are in line for potential awards totaling $40 million.
The integration of rooftop solar systems with battery storage not only enhances self-sufficiency by reducing reliance on centralized grids but also contributes to reducing emissions associated with climate change.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, which severely damaged the power grid, Puerto Rico witnessed a devastating toll with up to 4,600 fatalities, particularly impacting communities with elderly and low-income residents. In some mountainous regions, power outages persisted for a staggering 11 months. Concerns about the fragility of the decades-old grid system, primarily reliant on fossil fuel plants, were further underscored when a less severe hurricane, Fiona, once again disrupted the grid in September 2022.