Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Progress and Peril in Puerto Rico

Five months since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria back in September, over half a million people remain without power, and the remainder face unreliable electricity. Solar energy provides opportunities for relief, recovery, and resilience. The Solar Gardens Institute is working in each of these areas with short, medium, and long-term efforts.

Please donate to help us provide immediate relief, medium-term recovery, and long-term resilience in the face of future climate disasters.
In remote mountain communities, nearly every power pole was damaged.


SGI is delivering solar-powered relief to the remote community of Ciales, which was impacted by the eyewall of the hurricane and experienced high winds, flooding, and loss of power. The most acute needs are people dependent on medical devices. We work with local partners such as the Catholic parish, who can identify the individuals most at risk who can benefit from battery powered devices powered by solar energy.

Children with asthma are at risk of hospitalization (or worse) without their medications, which are typically delivered through a nebulizer. Without power, plug-in devices can't be used, so we have provided battery powered nebulizers along with battery chargers and small solar panels. 

This three-year-old boy has asthma
along with other health problems.
Now, solar energy charges the batteries
for his nebulizer, providing life-saving medicine.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the loss of power, at risk of falls in the darkness as well as depression. SGI provides lanterns that can be charged by solar energy, USB, wall outlet, car cigarette lighter, or hand crank. Solar powered fans can provide cooling for bedridden patients, who are susceptible to bedsores in the heat.

Workers for the parish located 78 year old Don Diego living in a remote area of the mountains. His home had been severely damaged, and he had been unable to access FEMA aid because he had no government ID. Aid workers were able to get him an ID and at least clean up some of the debris around his house, while SGI provided a solar lantern for light at night.

78 year old Don Diego with his solar lantern


In the medium term, households, businesses, aid distribution warehouses and community centers are working to install off-grid solar energy with battery storage. These systems can provide charging, communications, and refrigeration for medication. Even a single small installation can benefit dozens of residents without power.

Unfortunately, even if the money is available and the panels are paid for, bottlenecks in the port and skilled labor shortages can cause waits of a month or more for systems to be installed. In the meantime, residents must use generators, which have a high fuel cost and can break down. However, the promise of reliable power is worth the wait!

Off-grid solar installation in a
remote mountain community

The Puerto Rico Energy Commission has released preliminary rules for microgrids. A solar powered microgrid including its own batteries could connect to the larger grid, but disconnect and remain operational during power outages. The rules allow the microgrids to be owned by cooperatives - local community ownership!

SGI has hired two interns at the University of Puerto Rico to help plan a Solar Gardener Training. Our goal is to train 50 solar gardeners who will each begin the work to with local governments and organizations to develop shared microgrids in their communities. Puerto Rico can become a model for the rest of the world with an electricity system that is renewable, resilient, and community owned.

Donate to our GoFundMe campaign to support an intern or solar gardener in Puerto Rico

Monday, January 15, 2018

Job Posting - Intern for Community Solar at University of Puerto Rico

Intern - Solar Gardens for Puerto Rico

The Intern will work an average of 10 hours per week for one semester.

The Intern will respond to all communications within one business day

The intern will be willing and able to travel to storm-affected regions of the island


Graduate student at UPR Mayaguez in Electrical, Environmental or Civil Engineering, Urban Planning, Community Development, Sustainability, Green Business or a comparable field (advanced undergraduates with exceptional ability will be considered)

Commitment to 100% renewable energy for Puerto Rico, a sustainable and resilient recovery, and the fight against climate change

Excellent writing and public presentation ability in Spanish and English (required)

Good organizational skills and meticulous note taking

Leadership skills and the ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds

Access to a vehicle to travel to storm-impacted regions of the island

Basic knowledge of renewable energy and electric grid terms (preferred, but not required - we can train you)

Photography and video editing experience (a plus but not required)

Web development experience (a plus but not required)


Translate course materials and act as interpreter as needed

Grade assignments, papers, and exams as needed

Lead course sections and present video and Skype material

Assist in forming an island-wide organization supporting community owned renewable energy

Travel to storm-affected parts of the island to perform site assessments and meet with local organizers

Public speaking in person and on video

Send resume and cover letter (English) to:

Joy Hughes, Executive Director, Solar Gardens Institute - Deputy Director, Clean Energy Relief Inc.


About us:

Solar Gardens Institute (2/3 of hours)

Founded in 2010, Solar Gardens Institute supports community renewable policy, education and training programs, and early stage project development

Our Mission

To educate and learn from the public about community solar energy.

To promote good community energy policy at all levels of government and in all types of electric utilities.

To assist local organizations in organizing, developing, and managing community-owned solar energy projects everywhere.

To provide a way for everyone to own solar panels, making clean energy affordable and available for all humanity.

Clean Energy Relief (1/3 of hours)

We are a small group of concerned citizens with backgrounds in renewable energy and telecommunications. Several of us rode through Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irma. We all have friends in the Caribbean whose lives have been dangerously disrupted. When Maria hit hard we could no longer just send thoughts and prayers, our years of experience jump started us into action and we rolled up our sleeves and dove in with a mission to help in a meaningful way.

We believe we've identified a single solution that addresses the basic needs we all face in modern society; POWER, WATER, REFRIGERATION and COMMUNICATION. We have assembled the tools necessary to provide for these basic needs in a neat and affordable package.

Together we can bring power to the people. We welcome you to join us!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Proposed Rules for Puerto Rico Microgrids | Greentech Media


Puerto Rico will be home to the first solar gardens implemented as microgrids!

According to the commission's regulation, “a microgrid shall consist, at a minimum, of generation assets, loads and distribution infrastructure. Microgrids shall include sufficient generation, storage assets and advanced distribution technologies to serve load under normal operating and usage conditions.”

All microgrids must be renewable (with at least 75 percent of power from clean energy), combined heat and power (CHP) or hybrid CHP-and-renewable systems. 

The regulation applies to microgrids controlled and owned by individuals, customer cooperatives, nonprofit and for-profit companies, and cities, but not those owned by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Owners must submit a registration application for approval, including a certification of inspection from a licensed electric engineer, and an annual fuel, generation and sales report that details generation and fuel source, as well as any change in the number of customers served.

Read more: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/puerto-rico-energy-commission-island-microgrid

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tallahassee Energizes Inaugural Community Solar Project | Solar Industry

The Florida state capital might’ve made national headlines after seeing its first snowfall in decades on Wednesday, but the City of Tallahassee also recently marked a major renewable energy milestone: the completion of its first community solar farm.

According to a city press release, crews finished construction on the 20 MW, 120-acre solar farm last month. Located on property of the Tallahassee International Airport (TLH), the project was a partnership with Origis Energy USA and included the installation of more than 200,000 thin-film solar panels. Earlier this week, solar energy generated by the farm became fully integrated into the city’s electric grid.

Read more: