Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

By Marina Villain Eye

San Juan, (EFE).- Solar panels and electrical generators have become essential for the population of Puerto Rico, which suffers from frequent power outages and occasional long-term blackouts such as the current one caused by Hurricane Fiona.

They are part of the urban and rural landscape because the fragility of electrical networks is a fact. It has long been plagued by problems and has not recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which completely destroyed it, leaving many areas of the island in darkness for months.

Fiona caused a general blackout on the island last Sunday and, as of Friday, more than 60% of customers are still without power, even though a significant portion of the federal funds authorized to rebuild Puerto Rico after Maria have been earmarked. Pharaonic act of transforming the electrical network.

“The country’s energy system is very vulnerable, we went through a situation just five years ago but more seriously (Hurricane Maria), when the system completely went to the ground and it became difficult to pick it up,” said Lewis Ifeke. In charge of a 24-hour supermarket located in the Koto, metropolitan area.

Their supermarket has a powerful electrical generator, located on the roof of the building, to which everything from their refrigerators to air conditioners is connected.

“Getting to work” tools

An electrical generator is installed on the roof of a supermarket in Carolina, Puerto Rico. EFE/Marina Villain

“Thanks to the generators, the business can continue to operate and operate and provide services to the community,” explains Cotto, who emphasizes the need for Puerto Rico to “be ready” with generators or renewable energy systems.

From the roof of the supermarket, it can be seen that nearby restaurants and houses also have generators. They can be seen and heard, they are not unnoticed, making the sound of these devices deafening.

There are many types. From the huge plants in the island’s most luxurious apartment blocks, called the island’s condominiums, to electricity for all homes, even though they are the smallest on the island, to small ones for single-family homes.

Other buildings have generators for common areas, some with outlets in hallways for residents of various apartments to plug into an extension cord to at least power the fridge and charge their cell phones.

They run on fuel, which produces gas emissions and causes lines at gas stations and stresses the island in the face of possible shortages of gasoline and diesel or problems with its distribution, as happened this week after Fiona.

In addition, they enter danger. Firefighters have attended dozens of emergencies related to electrical generators in recent days, some fatal, such as a man whose device exploded while operating it or another who died of gas inhalation.

Given the inconvenience generators present, more and more families are opting for renewable energy, such as Hiram Arroyo, a professor of health promotion at the University of Puerto Rico, who installed thirty solar panels on his home a year before the pandemic.

Solar panels gain popularity

An electric generator and a water tank are installed on the roof of a business in Carolina, Puerto Rico. EFE/Marina Villain

“In the last five years, my generation has seen the need to invest in solar panels because of the events and natural crises that have occurred in the country, including hurricanes,” Arroyo explained to Ife.

The academic, who faces service interruptions “on a daily basis”, also cited “deficiencies in the public electrical energy system” and the performance of private company LUMA Energy as other factors.

Arroyo decided to lease the plates, making monthly payments according to their cost. Another option is to buy them for between $20,000 and $30,000.

Benefits of solar energy are “ideal”. After Hurricane Fiona, at least it has “basic essential services of a refrigerator and other household appliances powered by solar panels” installed on its roof, he says.

Apart from appliances, there are people who need electricity due to health issues. This is the case with Arroyo’s mother, who needs oxygen to sleep and has a generator to do so.

Hurricanes cause not only these blackouts, but also breakdowns, as happened last April at a plant that left the entire island in darkness for several days, which increased dissatisfaction with the company LUMA Energy, which took over the distribution and transmission of electricity in June 2021.

Popular protests against the company have been frequent due to blackouts and a rise in electricity bills by seven in a year, as well as calls to cancel contracts with it.

LUMA President Wayne Stanby said in the spring that the organization was “well prepared for the 2022 hurricane season.” Some sound remains in question with Fiona having general blackouts and slow restoration of service.

Web version: Juanque Ochoa

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