Energy storage manufacturer Sonnen said today that it is launching an effort to bring microgrids to Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria destroyed almost the entire electric grid.
The German company is stepping in as the island’s utility, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), reports that it may take months to restore power to all of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people.
“What is happening in Puerto Rico is a tragedy and as fellow human beings, it is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” said Christoph Ostermann, founder and CEO of Sonnen.
Sonnen is undertaking the effort with its partner on the island, Pura Energia. Together, the pair are starting by checking on their existing energy storage customers to ensure that they are safe and have power. Sonnen has been operating batteries in Puerto Rico since 2016.
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Next, the partners intend to target emergency medical clinics that require power to refrigerate medicine, as well as emergency shelters. The companies also are interested in partnering with a clean water filtration company.
Called the “Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative” (PRESI), the campaign will focus on areas where a stable microgrid will make a significant impact on a local community. Sonnen said it will subsidize the cost of Pura Energia installing the battery units and the solar array microgrid components.
Ostermann hopes to bring its first operating microgrid to Puerto Rico in less than a month. The company sees the timetable as ambitious, but achievable, given the way its technology works.
Duty to bring microgrids to Puerto Rico
Sonnen describes itself as uniquely positioned to help Puerto Rico because its battery system can form a true off-grid microgrid relatively quickly without a grid connection — something many other technologies cannot do, according to Blake Richetta, senior vice president and head of Sonnen’s US business unit.
“Therefore, it is our duty to step in and bring relief to our countrymen in Puerto Rico, as soon as possible,” Richetta said.
Microgrid installation will begin as soon as Sonnen completes a strategic plan. The company plans to deploy a team of engineers and technicians to help lead the microgrid campaign. They will handle all aspects of the projects from system design through final installation.
Sonnen has over 21,000 operating battery systems worldwide. Its manufacturing and engineering facility in Atlanta, Georgia has been continuously sending systems to the island since Hurricane Maria hit, and plans to focus the factory heavily on the island’s needs over the next several months.
“Our plan is to ship a batch of our Eco Energy Storage Systems to Puerto Rico every week, while balancing the rest of our growing business in North America,” said Brent Stayer, vice president of operations & quality control for sonnen. “In fact, we started shipping specifically to support the disaster relief last week. Our biggest challenge at this point will be gaining access to the ports. We remain hopeful that, starting next week, it will become easier to deliver our product to the island.”
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