This satellite picture shows how San Juan, Puerto Rico used to sparkle at night:
But since Hurricane Maria, no more:
Currently, 10% of the island has power. So there is little running water and few flushing toilets. Similarly, air conditioning units and airport ticketing computers cannot function. So yes, as quickly as possible, they need to replace transformers, poles, and power lines that crisscross mountains.
But there may be another solution. Puerto Rico’s Governor has said he would talk with Elon Musk about a solar replacement:
Ta’u’s Solar Energy
The island of Ta’u in American Samoa is powered by solar energy from Tesla. The switch last November (2016) to solar from diesel generators was supposed to decrease the expense and minimize outages. Its basic components are 5,328 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpack batteries. If there is no sunlight, the batteries can kick in for up to three days.
This is their 7-acre solar facility:
And Tesla’s description:
Ta’u’s solar power system is an example of a microgrid. Like Ta’u, Puerto Rico could benefit from a microgrid’s potential for decentralization. When a hurricane strikes, they would not have to worry about a single vulnerable generating facility. Also like Ta’u, they could eliminate the expense of imported fuel. However, just 600 people live in Ta’u while Puerto Rico’s population is close to 3.4 million.
Our Bottom Line: Creative Destruction
Explaining “creative destruction,” economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) said that economic growth depends on the pain of old industries dying and new ones taking their place. For now though, you can see below that solar energy is not close to replacing traditional power generation…
…even if Puerto Rico’s governor says yes to Mr. Musk.
My sources and more: Vox had the complete summary of Puerto Rico’s plight and the perfect satellite picture while the Washington Post focused on power alternatives. Then, more specifically, EIA, Tesla/Solar City and National Geographic, explained solar power. Finally, we should note that a 100% renewable energy goal has been proposed by a group of Senators.