Led by Rodríguez Hernández, Por los Nuestros has installed solar microgrids to pump water from new wells in 25 communities located in the mountains. The microgrids consist of solar, batteries – most from Blue Planet Energy – and diesel backup generators.
In Puerto Rico, the towns are located at sea level, in general, but many smaller communities — each with 10 to 200 households — are higher in the mountains.
Because of the topography, these smaller communities often don’t receive water from the government’s main utility, said Rodriguez Hernández. They need to drill wells to gain access to water, and they need power to pump water out of the wells to households.
Before Hurricane Maria struck the island, wiping out the electrical grid, most of the communities had grid power. Now, many communities have wells but no grid power although some are powered by diesel generators supplied by the government.
To help bring water to these communities, Por los Nuestros began deploying the solar microgrids with diesel backup. The largest system has 26 KW of solar, with 75 kWh of batteries and 40-kW backup generators. The solar microgrids can isolate from the grid, said Rodríguez Hernández.
Especially in the center of the island, the batteries are needed because clouds form daily in the afternoon, blocking solar radiation. Without the batteries, backup diesel generators would be used more often.
The nonprofit organization acquired the microgrid equipment with funding from its donors — US-based Direct Relief, an NGO, and AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company. Por los Nuestros received $2.3 million in funding, which came from both organizations, said Rodríguez Hernández.