Necessity being the mother of invention, it’s not surprising Puerto Rico is the new phoenix rising.
You remember the phoenix, right? The bird in ancient Greek mythology that cycles through various born-again episodes, rising from the ashes of its previous self?
Now, with that concept firmly in mind, fast-forward to this year, and envision such a creature rising in the island nation of Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from last summer’s hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Far too many of the island’s remaining residents have been without electric power since the storms. U.S. power companies, large and small, have sent crews who are slowly restoring electricity, but the pace is maddening — something most U.S. power customers simply would not tolerate.
The Trump administration promised help in the wake of the storms’ destruction, but quickly lost enthusiasm for millions of Puerto Rico voters who, by nature and inclination, are prone to vote for Democrat candidates.
Politics aside, the power issue remains unsettled and uncertain. Some remote areas of the island probably will not have reliable electricity this year.
And here comes the phoenix-rising component — some island residents are, of necessity, turning to alternative means of generating electric power, primarily solar. Puerto Rico has its share of gusty days, similar to our Lompoc Valley, but solar panels are less expensive than wind turbines, and easier to put in operation.
Which is what some families are doing, despite the average $10,000 investment required in a solar panel and battery setup. One family took the financial leap after months of shelling out $400 a week to fuel their gas-powered generator, installed the panels, and now has plenty of electric power to run everything in their home.
In fact, the system works so well, the family is lining up investors to build a micro-grid that could supply enough electricity to keep 3,000 homes in their community powered up.
The U.S. government may come in handy after all. Puerto Rico officials are in talks to convert an old Navy base on the island into a solar-power farm. U.S. solar companies helping power up Puerto Rico say business is booming.
Puerto Rico officials considered this solar scheme a big-stage laboratory for proving solar power’s true efficacy. In fact, Puerto Rico’s governor has announced a plan to re-invent the island’s energy system by going solar.
It’s a grand plan, and would cost billions of dollars the Puerto Rico government does not have. And given the tepid recovery performance by the U.S. government in the storms’ wake, island officials don’t see much hope for help from America.
Solar companies see the same problem with regard to federal funding, and many are stepping in with donations of equipment and expertise. That will help, and such assistance could expand when investors and philanthropists see the upside potential.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz, a very vocal critic of the Trump administration’s recovery assistance effort, is 100-percent behind the solar push: “This could be a wonderful showcase for solar energy for the rest of the world.”
Never mind the rest of the world, which already is acutely aware of the need for alternative energy sources. The country that needs to pay attention — and be an investor in the island project — is the United States, whose current leadership continues to promote energy policy that relies on fossil fuels, a finite resource that is being voraciously consumed worldwide.
Wouldn’t it be smarter to put your faith and your dollars in infinite energy sources?