Elon Musk just announced that Tesla is willing and capable of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid from the ground up. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world,” said Musk, “but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico.” Most of the island’s power grid was destroyed and there is already discussion of rebuilding infrastructure to be more sustainable and resilient. This future-focused approach seems custom-fit for Tesla.
In response to Musk’s offer, Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello tweeted, “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.” Tesla has already begun deploying its Powerpack energy-storage technology in Puerto Rico to bring critical infrastructure, such as emergency response centers, back online. The Powerpacks are paired with solar panels to provide sustainable, resilient on-site power generation and storage. The mission to reenergize Puerto Rico would involve similar technology but on a massive scale.
As Musk mentioned, Tesla already has experience building small-scale energy infrastructure using solar panels and Powerpacks on islands including Kauai and American Samoa. However, challenges remain. Although this modern infrastructure may be more resilient, it may still largely depend on power lines, which can be damaged by storms, and physical components like solar panels and wind turbines, both of which were damaged on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. Further, the people of Puerto Rico and their government may be more focused on surviving what has proven to be a very grueling recovery than reinventing their energy infrastructure. Nonetheless, proactive thinking now may very well lead to a more resilient Puerto Rico in a future filled with superstorms.
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