Castañer, Puerto Rico Selected for New Solar Energy Microgrid Project
As part of Solar Foundation, Pathstone Corp. community resiliency initiative
SAN JUAN — The village of Castañer, Puerto Rico has been selected to receive support for a solar energy microgrid project, as part of an initiative led by the nonprofit Solar Foundation and Pathstone Corp. to build more resilient communities.
The community microgrid project will include a solar energy and battery storage installation project that contributes to Castañer’s energy resilience by integrating local businesses that have provided essential services during emergencies such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The plans are to be in the installation and construction phase of the microgrid by fall.
“They will benefit from a clean, low-cost source of electricity that will also provide some backup power in the event of future interruptions to the power grid,” explains a press release by the Solar Foundation, which along with the community, will develop the project in collaboration with the Microgrid Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez (UPR).
The development of the project will be supported by the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator (PRSBA), which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Led by Pathstone Corp. and the Solar Foundation, the PRSBA “is helping transform Puerto Rico’s energy system through solar workforce development, expanded finance options, and technical assistance to solar businesses, along with two solar energy microgrid projects,” the release reads.
Castañer was chosen from nine candidates “following a rigorous selection process” the foundation said, adding that the rural, mountainous community “has a successful track record of community-centered projects,” and pointing out that after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, the community did not get its electric power restored for six months.
“We are very excited to work with Castañer on this cutting-edge project that supports the use of clean, renewable energy, while enhancing the community’s resilience to future grid interruptions,” said Carlos Alberto Velázquez, program director for the Solar Foundation in Puerto Rico. “From an educational and professional development perspective, Puerto Rico’s engineering students will have a great opportunity to be front and center in the development of new technological solutions that have an important social and environmental component.”
“At Pathstone, we’re excited to contribute to economic development in remote and vulnerable communities. We are proud of the alliance that we’ve achieved with diverse organizations to initiate the construction of a microgrid in Castañer and provide the opportunity for about 120 people to enter the solar workforce through our training and employment programs at Pathstone,” said Rosa Uriarte, deputy director of Pathstone Enterprise Center.
The Solar Foundation and the UPR, Mayagüez will provide support to Castañer “in all phases of the project, including the presentation of sustainable financing options, drafting of the Request for Proposal, project design, and project management. The Solar Foundation will also be donating solar equipment with an approximate value of $40,000 which will reduce the overall cost of the project,” according to the release.
The community of Castañer has been joined in the project by the Hydroelectric Cooperative of La Montaña (CHM), a nonprofit entity that seeks to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters and the time required to restore electricity for the populations of Utuado, Adjuntas and Jayuya. CHM has been selected by Castañer as the community representative in the microgrid pre-development and development stage.
The project is also expected to serve as an example for other communities wishing to develop similar projects.
In the coming weeks, the Solar Foundation will be announcing a round of applications for the second microgrid project supported by the PRSBA. Communities interested in participating in the selection process can complete the form at the following link: https://comunidadsolarpr.org/solicitud-de-orientacion-sobre-proyecto-piloto-de-microrred. A webinar with more information for communities will be offered March 30. To register, visit https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5218531088397911565.
In 2021, the Solar Foundation will merge with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), creating an expanded nonprofit dedicated to the rapid adoption of clean energy. For more information, visit TheSolarFoundation.org.