on puerto rico’s \'forgotten island,\' tesla\'s busted solar panels tell a cautionary tale

by:Tunto     2020-03-23
After Hurricane Maria brought Vieques into the dark, Tesla\'s arrival heralds the future of the micro-grid.
But not so easy.
Vieques, Puerto Rico-looks like it\'s in a brochure promoting renewable energy to provide remote storms --ravaged island.
The wires still hang in danger on the poles across the street, but in mint --green, one-
Story Ciudad Dorada premium Center with fans blowing cool air and fridge full of insulin and other drugs even if the noon sun rises in the cloudless Caribbean sky, they
There is a set of Tesla photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, connected by cable to a pair of Tesla batteries hanging on the wall below.
However, a diesel generator roared violently behind the center.
Workers of the billionaire Elon Musk\'s electric car and solar giant Tesla, just a few weeks after Hurricane Irma and maria destroyed the aging grid and cut off the transmission cable connecting the island and the Puerto Rican continent seven miles west, they arrived in Vieques.
The company has selected the senior center as one of its 11 locations on the Dark Island where it will be powered
Production panels and batteries.
The system is very simple to build.
But when the worker connected the panels and batteries to the old wires of the former school building, the batteries exploded.
\"It doesn\'t work,\" said a nurse at the senior center during a Huffington Post visit at the end of February. “It never has.
The circuit problem proved ominous.
Officials promised Tesla\'s efforts to herald a bright future for Vieques, which would free the island from reliance on fossil fuels and make it a model for the rest of Puerto Rico.
But there is a clear shortage of supply, regulatory barriers, and a long-term lack
Those hopes were dashed.
Today, the island still relies on the dirty electricity of the mainland, and some solar panels and batteries become useless and damaged in another hurricane season less than a month later.
Edgar Oscar Ruiz, 34, said: \"We are back to the starting point . \" He is a local activist promoting renewable energy in Vieques.
\"Tesla came in with great intentions, but that\'s not enough.
Vieques experience shows what renewable energy experts say is the risk of relying on corporate goodwill to achieve transformative change, and highlights the potential obstacles Puerto Rico faces as a whole in its power system while seeking to change its territory, take part in renewable energy and sell its public utilities.
\"Here\'s a warning story,\" said Andrea Luke, chairman of the Solar Energy Foundation, an industry nonprofit.
A week after Hurricane Maria landed on Tuesday, Tesla employees arrived in Puerto Rico.
2017, before many rescuers.
By November, the company had sent an unsolicited proposal to the Puerto Rican government.
The project includes the construction of solar microgrids on Vieques and Culebra, which will produce and distribute autonomous power from the main power grids of the territory.
Although the content of the proposal has never been made public, a study published by the Puerto Rican government confirms this.
Government of Puerto Rico.
Ricardo Rosello touted the effort in December 2017.
\"These projects are part of the measures we are taking to build a better Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and to ensure reliable services for citizens living here, ross Lo told Isla radio 1320 at the time.
At about the same time, Tesla contacted the government of Vieques to start talking about buying public lands and building microgrids on them, according to Carlos Jirau, a development consultant working for the mayor.
\"Tesla is asking for the possibility of obtaining land from municipalities to develop the micro-grid,\" Jirau said . \".
He said that he had asked for a formal proposal but had not received a reply.
It\'s easy to understand the opportunities Tesla sees.
In 2016, the company has already put 600-
Islands, solar energy and batteries that live in Samoa, USA.
A year later, Tesla built a huge solar and battery farm on Kauai island in Hawaii.
Vieques not only represents another test case for its technology, but also an opportunity to do something good.
The island-known by some locals as a \"colony\" due to its history of human and environmental development-is becoming the second --
The longest power outage in world history
Tesla works fast.
It installed equipment at the island\'s only medical center, Suzanne Central Hospital.
It has been deployed to Vieques Boys and Girls Club Ciudad Dorada, an elderly day care center, two water supply plants, a sewage treatment facility and three private residences inhabited by elderly single women
A Tesla spokesperson told Huffington Post: \"We are just doing what we can to help in Puerto Rico . \".
\"As soon as the hurricane was cleared, we had local staff working hard to restore power and we still had full-
Staff to today\'s time.
We are committed to expanding clean energy there, including the large number of solar and storage facilities currently and planned on the island.
\"To a large extent, after the storm succeeded, those targeted efforts to restore power.
According to Mark Martin, coordinator of love for Vieques, a non-profit organization that works with Tesla, the company believes that many people on solar Island have the potential and several other sites are now installing panels as well.
Martin said: \"Vieques was abandoned, so the speed of Tesla powering up again left an impression.
\"This is a cultural change,\" he said . \"
\"On the island, you can see a shift in thinking.
But greater permanent changes to infrastructure are limited.
At a water treatment facility, the battery is dormant and during a visit to the site by the Huffington Post at the end of February, the fields of solar panels are covered with weeds and brushes.
Several panels are engraved with broken marks of Horseshoe, a predictable problem with every two people on the island having a Mustang.
Hospital-damaged and moldy
Hit by a storm-permanently shut down.
After they helped power the temporary medical center, Tesla moved these solar panels and other devices to some of the 11,000 other sites it started working in Puerto Rico.
Tesla did not particularly boast about the project on Vieques, nor was it the only company to ship equipment to the island; San Francisco-
Sunrun also deployed troops after the storm.
But Tesla\'s efforts have won the most praise in the media, including Fortune and Inc.
To a large extent, due to Musk\'s celebrity and his high
Disaster relief work elsewhere, if sometimes bizarre and disastrous.
A welcome clean
The tech blog quoted Vieques as saying, \"Musk\'s charity should make headlines.
\"If Tesla plans to lay the foundation for an island --
Wide micro-grid, existing regulations create obstacles.
At the territorial level, the state-
The Puerto Rico Electricity Authority, which owns it, enjoys a monopoly in power generation and distribution.
Years of neglect and billions of dollars of debt have made the grid fragile, while power companies are not prepared to integrate new technologies.
At the national level, the federal emergency response agency has largely limited financial assistance to the aftermath of the disaster.
The hurricane fixes projects to restore existing infrastructure-which have made new improvements, such as the solar micro-grid, which makes it difficult to finance with public funds.
Federal funds have also become material for a battle in Washington, as President Donald Trump has carried out a fierce attack on Puerto Rico, accusing Puerto Rican officials of mishandling relief funds, Democrats believe, the White House, blinded by racism, has caused millions of American citizens to suffer.
However, the regulatory changes in Puerto Rico over the past year have promised to make it easier to build renewable energy in the future.
In last May, although the bankruptcy of PREPA still complicated the process, the rules finalized by the District regulators paved the way for the micro-grid.
On December, Rosselló signed a bill to legalize local-owned energy cooperatives.
In 2050, the Puerto Rican legislature passed a bill stipulating that 100% of the island\'s electricity would be generated from renewable sources.
In an interview with The Huffington Post last month, Rosselló said: \"This policy provides a way for solar energy and batteries, a very stable way, \"noting the island\'s request for a new project proposal.
\"Companies like Tesla, Sunrun and others will be able to bid.
The government of Puerto Rico wants Vieques to be a test case for the micro-grid, Omar marero, public director of the territory --
The private partnership Authority told Quartz in an interview published by May.
\"No matter what [generation]source]
\"We all agree with the micro-grid,\" he said . \"
But reaching agreement on the micro-grid is only the first step.
Insidecnews reported that despite the current law requiring 2% per cent, Puerto Rico produced only 12% per cent of renewable energy before the hurricane.
The ambitious benchmark for the new legislation-20% in 2022 and 40% in 2025-appears to be inconsistent with PREPA\'s plans to build gas import terminals, pipelines and generators.
It is also not enough to build solar panels and battery farms.
They must be maintained.
At the plant on the north shore of Vieques\', the broken solar panels are a typical case of Jenean Smith, a California executive
A non-profit solar installation grid alternative called \"solar Cemetery.
\"The term refers to the phenomenon that companies or non-profit organizations bring photovoltaic panels and batteries to less developed economies, and then make them disrepair when local people in the management system work hard to maintain them.
\"We use off-
Grid systems around the world, where
\"Well-meaning organizations will install the system, get a lot of PR, get money ahead of time, and then leave,\" Smith said on the phone . \".
\"There is a disconnect between PR and local reality.
The best way to avoid this is to set aside additional money for companies or foundations that fund these projects to hire and train maintenance personnel, Smith said.
\"We take the initiative to access all the systems we have installed and make sure we register with people,\" she said . \".
\"You have to build a project management system in your budget-not only at the time of installation, but also in the next five, 10, 15 years.
New rules allowing energy cooperation
Ops offers some hope.
According to Nelson Cologne, the model retains the public ownership that people opposed to PREPA privatization want, but authorizes communities that benefit from the program to help maintain operations, chief executive of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, the Foundation is a non-profit organization that is building a solar joint venture.
Action on the territory.
\"When a private business entity comes to deploy solar panels and batteries, it\'s a challenge-then the community is not involved and the community is not part of it,\" Cologne said on the phone . \".
\"The community is a very active participant in our model.
The foundation is raising money for a fund to build a common \"green corridor\"
From culebrd to the op project in Vieques, all the way to the west end of the main island. That local-
The ownership model offers fewer opportunities for private companies to reduce taxpayers.
It also sets a standard for long-
Regular contracts considered in system maintenance.
\"There is a trend that companies want to rush in, solve problems, and respond as much as possible,\" says Luecke . \".
\"This trend is wrong.
For Tesla, responding to public demand in specific places has already paid off, at least in terms of media coverage.
The project of Tau and Kauai produced adult reports.
On last July, the company said it would take the same action against Samoa, the island nation as a whole.
In January, Tesla set its sights on the island\'s backyard in Greece.
But historically, the company\'s ambition often outweighs its ability.
Over the past year, Tesla has repeatedly said on the phone with investors that it will give priority to the production of Model 3 cars instead of solar cells.
According to USA Today last summer, the wait time for the solar system segment ranges from six months to one year.
According to a report from Business Insider in June 2018, customers who purchase batteries and solar roofs face twice the delay the sales staff initially promised.
On last July, a so-called buyer claimed on Twitter that the company informed him that all shipments and installations had \"stopped indefinitely \".
\"Apart from the fact that we are cells, we were going to do more in fixed storage last year --
Musk said in a earnings call in January.
\"So we had to convert a bunch of fixed storage lines, battery lines to vehicle battery lines.
Local activist Ruiz said: \"This is a barrier for the few Buick residents who are trying to buy Tesla batteries themselves.
\"We were told there was a 9-
He said: \"Wait a month for the list.
\"It has never been implemented.
Vieques has become a resort center in recent years, attracting tourists to the quiet black-
Sandy beaches and the brightest bio-glowing Bay in the world, the Instagram charm of its new discovery masks an uneasy past and a long-lasting toxic legacy.
Europeans settled in Vieques in the 19 th century, bypassed the peasant agricultural economy that flourished on the Puerto Rican continent, and established a country entirely composed of slaves.
Based on the sugar planting model.
Spain abolished slavery in 1873, 10 years later than the United States. At that time, many former slaves and newcomers from other Caribbean islands became agogados, basically feudal.
The system lasted from the invasion of the United States in 1898 to its 1940 s. S.
The Navy decided to set up a base to defend its Caribbean colony from German attacks. boats.
The military used the right to requisition to compensate some landowners, but refused to pay the wages of poor farmers, but pushed their houses flat and forced them into a small area that was almost the third largest on the island.
After World War II, the Navy turned half of Vieques into a target range for new weapons, including uranium. Based on ammunition.
About 2000, the Navy accidentally killed a local resident in a bombing, triggering a protest campaign, which many here call a \"struggle\" and eventually the military decided to close the base.
That killed Taiwan\'s main economic engine.
Most of Vieques today are Superfund sites.
According to a study cited by Al Jazeera, cancer rates are 30% higher than in other parts of Puerto Rico, and high blood pressure is four times that of common cancer.
The storm a year and a half ago exacerbated the existing inequality on the island of about 9,000 people.
Even before the official condemnation of Suzanne Central Hospital, the storm destroyed the hospital\'s diagnosis and treatment center, which provides dialysis services to 10 people on the island.
So many of these patients are vulnerable and have to make a hard 25-
Take a one-mile land and air tour to fusenius kidney care center in Huacao, Puerto Rico.
Vieques is called by NBC News \"never --
The \"end task\" of reconstruction \".
In March 2018, municipal documents submitted to Puerto Rico\'s housing sector as part of the Federal block subsidy program showed that the island needed at least $65 million to repair housing and public infrastructure.
A year later, Vieques were still tattered and many of the damaged houses were covered with blue tarps that were easy to see from the main roads.
It took 18 months to re-access Vieques to the Puerto Rican grid.
At the west end of the island, the transmission cable reconstructed from the mainland is only protected by a broken nest surrounding the chain fence of the hastily poured concrete blocks.
So it\'s not surprising for such a long time.
Time-dwellers like Kathy Gannett are skeptical about the future of projects like the micro-grid.
\"Tesla came in and of course met our urgent needs, is that good?
But when we need resources so much, it\'s terrible that they let their equipment rot, \"she said.
\"But we were overwhelmed by the need to secure basic services like ferry services and access to a decent hospital, so these issues took up all of our time.
\"The story has been updated, including a new statement from Tesla.
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