In Puerto Rico, 3,600 children will now study in buildings with secure electricity thanks to the installation of school microgrids by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Save the Children and Kinesis Foundation.
The microgrids were installed in 10 schools, many of which had no power for six months after hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s electric grid in 2017.
Read about the inspiration for the Puerto Rico school microgrids here.
The school microgrids offer sufficient battery and solar capacity to back up school libraries, administrative offices, kitchens, and critical water pumps indefinitely in the event of an outage. In addition to the microgrids the team provided roof waterproofing, energy efficiency retrofits such as LED lighting, and curriculum support for teachers to incorporate climate change and renewable energy into their classrooms.
The team members each brought their unique skills to the project. Save the Children focused on fostering resilience to natural disasters and on strengthening social and emotional learning for the students. RMI managed the solar microgrid system installation in way that ensured learning could continue during construction. Kinesis Foundation and other funders provided financial support.
“We hope this project will inspire and encourage other schools and critical facilities to explore solar microgrids as a pathway to building local energy resilience,” said Roy Torbert, RMI’s Puerto Rico program leader.
The program emerged after RMI began exploring ways to help the US territory recover from last year’s Hurricane Maria. The brutal onslaught destroyed the island’s power grid, caused $90 billion in damages and led to an estimated 2,975 deaths.
RMI learned via Save the Children that the storm kept children out of school 13 million cumulative days.
RMI and Save the Children started up the first school microgrid in September 2018 in Orocovis, a mountain town of about 23,000 people 50 miles from San Juan. The microgrid, which includes a 15-kW rooftop solar array and a 34-kWh lithium-ion battery system, is electrifying an elementary school with 234 students.