After Hurricane Maria, Blue Planet Energy was there on the ground in Puerto Rico, enabling greater energy resilience through microgrid projects at community sites like water stations, hospitals and childrens’ shelters, even investing in local workforce development. Now, Blue Planet Energy has joined forces with Microsoft Airband, Por Los Nuestros, and others, to integrate resilient internet connectivity into rural communities.
Reliable energy is a lifeline for communities around the world, supporting everything from household electricity and running water to telecommunications and economic development. Unfortunately, recurring natural disasters have exposed tremendous energy inequality, particularly in the rural mountain towns of Puerto Rico.
Transforming Stand-Alone Solar Into Community Lifelines
Without access to a water utility and with limited access to electricity, Puerto Rico’s isolated mountain communities have long relied on generators to run water pumps from wells – at great financial and environmental costs. Over the last several years, Por Los Nuestros, a Puerto Rican nonprofit, has coordinated the installation of solar-plus-storage systems to replace polluting diesel generators and reliably power the communities’ water systems.
Meanwhile, a lack of internet connectivity still limits educational and professional opportunity for residents; some having never used a computer before. To help improve digital literacy within these communities, Por Los Nuestros teamed up with Microsoft Airband, Blue Planet Energy, New Sun Road, and Red Verde to upgrade local energy resilience projects to internet hubs.
Por Los Nuestros identified three Puerto Rican communities—Caguas, Cidra, and Cayey— where they had previously installed solar-plus-storage systems to power local water pumps, yet knew internet access was still limited. Through this coalition of partners, the existing systems were retrofitted with real-time monitoring and additional connectivity to become a hubspot for clean water, high-speed broadband, and digital transformation.
“Preparing our local communities to adapt and succeed in the future means providing them with the tools and resources to overcome the obstacles they are currently facing,” said Alex Rodriguez, executive director of Por Los Nuestros. “Reliable energy plays an important role in addressing many of Puerto Rico’s challenges, and we are grateful for the partners who have come together to make community resilience possible.”
With Power Comes Opportunity
Now, the solar energy systems that provide power for the water pumps also use a Blue Planet Energy battery system to store excess power for nighttime use. They are also equipped with New Sun Road’s energy management systems that not only monitor real-time electricity usage and battery levels, but also provide WiFi hotspots for community internet.
Microsoft Airband then provided each community with computers and funding for a trainer to teach residents basic digital literacy, such as how to use digital banking services or fill out social services’ forms online.
Renewable Energy’s Impact on the Future
Blue Planet Energy’s strong partnerships with NGOs around the world, as well as with organizations like Por Los Nuestros and Microsoft Airband enables the company to further its mission of creating communities that are living the clean energy, and now digital, future.
“Renewable energy infrastructure can be powerful in providing critical electricity for water pumps as well as community empowerment and economic viability, as we’ve seen here in Puerto Rico,” said Gabriel Perez, regional sales manager, Latin America, for Blue Planet Energy. “The combination of solar-powered microgrids, low-maintenance batteries, and internet connectivity help communities that were once isolated from essential resources to now independently thrive for generations to come.”
To learn more about the project, download the Microsoft case study.