Backstory: We were already working on kits for emergency power for Vermonters during a power outage.
Now, There’s a 2018 Caribbean Connection!
In November, one of our Vermont customers talked to us about the terrible situation in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, where about half the island has no power and likely won’t get it for 6-8 months. Maybe. Her aunt lives in a remote village in Puerto Rica, and she asked our help for her.
Since we had already been working on the portable, plug & play emergency solar kits. this seemed like a perfect way to put one to use. Our customer, Heidie, brought the kit to her aunt Maria Garcia Carrion who lives near Caguas. We gave Heidie a quick lesson in putting it all together before she left, and then she hand-carried it on the plane with her.
Upon arrival Heidie assembled the kit which then provided power so her aunt was able to sleep at night using her sleep apnea machine. It was her first good night of sleep since the hurricane!
We were delighted to see that this simple system could work. This particular one was designed to be able to carry everything, except the battery, onto the plane. Future designs will be built with the idea of shipping larger solar panels.
This has led us to work with Heidie and her husband Eric Hangen to start a program we are calling Ponte Pilas: A Demonstration Solar Energy Project in Puerto Rico.
We have partnered with NeighborWorks, of western Vermont, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with an extensive track record promoting and financing renewable energy and energy efficiency in Vermont. We will be engaging local partners and preparing them to take over ownership of the program on the island. Our first pilot project site, in Barrio San Salvador, is a rural mountain community in Caguas, Puerto Rico that was heavily impacted by Hurricane Maria.
“Ponte pilas” is a Spanish idiomatic expression used in Puerto Rico, roughly meaning “pick yourself up and move forward” or “energize yourself and get it done.” Literally, however, the expression translates to “put on your batteries” – making the project title a reverse play on words, connecting both to the grassroots efforts that Puerto Ricans have been making to recover from the storm and the transformative possibility of solar power pus batteries to free themselves from reliance on a mismanaged, antiquated, and vulnerable power grid.