28 Jun Maria: Moutaintop School in Puerto Rico Switching to Solar Power
Maria: Moutaintop School in Puerto Rico Switching to Solar Power – OROCOVIS, PR. – A school in a mountainous region of Puerto Rico that went without electricity for eight months following Hurricane Maria is ready to stay “off the grid” — the electrical grid, that is — by powering their campus with solar energy.
- SU Matrullas situated on one of PR’s highest mountain peaks
- Renewable energy company sonnen donated solar panels to get power back
- School plans to be powered completely by solar panels, microgrid by August
Flipping the lights on is something staff and students at SU Matrullas, a K-8 school in Orocovis, will never take for granted again.
“We were without power for about eight months,” said school director Alberto Melendez Castillo. “The students didn’t have computers, we couldn’t do work. There was nothing.”
“It was like something from another world,” said teacher Yaritza Hernandez. “It was the first time we’d been through anything like that, let alone our students.”
SU Matrullas is already one of the poorest and most isolated schools in Puerto Rico. Ninety-three percent of its students’ families fall below the poverty line.
Losing power for so long was an even more devastating blow.
Relief — and light — eventually found its way up the mountain thanks to sonnen, a renewable energy company, who donated a microgrid to the school in February. Pura Energia, a partner of sonnen, donated 24 solar panels.
That system currently powers several classrooms, the cafeteria, and the administrative office. Other parts of the school, however, are still without power, and some teachers are still working in darkness.
We spoke to Hernandez as she worked on a few things in her classroom over summer vacation. She said the power had already returned by the time the school year ended, but the day we met with her it had failed again due to the continued instability of the island’s power grid.
“I couldn’t open the windows, so I’m just working with the light that’s coming through the door,” she said.
Since SU Matrullas is nestled atop one of Puerto Rico’s highest peaks, they get more rain and wind than most areas. That makes them even more susceptible to these rolling blackouts.
In response, sonnen and Pura Energia are donating an additional 30 solar panels and another microgrid to power the rest of the school. Installation will be completed by the time school starts again in August.
Staff and students at SU Matrullas aren’t the only ones benefiting from sonnen’s generosity and technology. The company has donated more than $350,000 in microgrid systems and installation to Puerto Rico in places like community centers and laundromats.
“Now the students will be able to see that technology can move them forward, to innovate,” Castillo said. “Maybe we’ll have students that’ll go on to be engineers, working with solar energy, renewable energy.”
June 26th, 2018 – Spectrum News 13 – by Adria Iraheta