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As Electricity Returns to Puerto Rico, Its People Want More Power

By Larry Greenemeier, Louis Dzierzak ~ Scientific American

The island has long-term plans to make its main public electrical grid smarter as residents turn to solar power and microgrids for faster relief

A nine-month, $3.8-billion effort to end the longest blackout in U.S. history has restored power to much of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately though, this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is underway and the still-fragile electrical grid is unlikely to fare any better when the next major storm hits.

As Puerto Rico’s government and state-owned utility company consider their options for a major redesign of the grid’s power generation, transmission and distribution systems over the next decade, many residents see neighborhood microgrids powered by renewable energy sources as their best option for weathering storms in the more immediate future.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria taught Puerto Ricans the importance of energy self-sufficiency when the storms swept across the island last September, leveling a power grid made especially vulnerable by years of neglect. Some of that neglect was the result of Puerto Rico’s massive debt, which prevented equipment maintenance and upgrades. In an attempt to work around its financial woes, its government passed a law on June 20 allowing private companies to own and operate generating stations on the island.

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