FEMA Approves More Than $10.2 Million in Phase 1 Funds for Solar Microgrids in Puerto Rico

April 3, 2023
Solar microgrids to be built on the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra.

Puerto Rico is about to take another step forward in the transformation of its electric grid into one that’s more resilient. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently approved more than $10.2 million to kick-start phase 1 of two major solar-powered microgrids in the US territory.

The microgrid project will be completed in two phases at a total price tag of nearly $97 million. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) will use the phase 1 funds for preconstruction activities on the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, which are east of the main island.

Project plans call for a 12.5-MW solar powered microgrid on Vieques and a 3-MW system on Culebra, both of which were hard hit by Hurricane María in 2017.

“Over the past two years we have worked to rebuild Puerto Rico's electrical grid using available federal funds strategically. With this $10.2 million obligation for phase 1 of the Vieques and Culebra microgrid projects, we ensure the resiliency that our residents in these islands need, especially in times of emergency,” said Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro R. Pierluisi. 

Island microgrids that can "island"

The microgrids will be able to “island,” or operate independently of the main grid, supporting medical facilities, schools and other critical service providers in case of a grid failure.

“We continue to witness more intense and increasingly severe storms. These new microgrids will help Puerto Rico become even more resilient, ensuring the lights stay on in hospitals, schools and other critical facilities if the main grid fails,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

The microgrids will be designed to increase sustainable power generation capabilities with solar energy and reduce the impact of future power outages from natural disasters.

Phase 1 of the microgrid project will fund architectural and engineering design services, a geotechnical study and an electrical load assessment, among other preconstruction activities.

Fully funded by FEMA

The Vieques and Culebra microgrids are fully funded by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMGP provides funding to develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild in a way that lessens potential future losses. Funds are available to state, local, tribal and territorial governments.

Puerto Rico has access to around $4 billion in HMGP monies, which is the maximum allowed by Congress. Thus far, FEMA has allotted nearly $3 billion of HMGP funding to help the island rebuild after Hurricane María.

The US Department of Energy’s Grid Deployment Office also has plans to distribute $1 billion to improve energy resilience in Puerto Rico in the form of microgrids, solar, energy storage and other smart grid technologies.

“We will continue to work closely with the government of Puerto Rico, PREPA and the municipalities to make sure these microgrids benefit the people of Vieques and Culebra for generations to come,” said José Baquero, the federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico.

A welcome addition to the island

The aftermath of Hurricane María left many in Puerto Rico without power for nearly a year. To say that the residents are excited about a more resilient electric supply is an understatement.

Microgrid Knowledge previously reported that the people of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, held a parade to celebrate the activation of two community microgrids.   

The project in Culebra and Vieques is in addition to 20 other developments that are in the initial stages of implementation around the island to provide energy resilience and promote the use of renewable energy, according to Manuel Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency.

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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