IREC, Local Partners Install Reliable Solar Microgrids for Rural Communities in Puerto Rico

The rural community of Castañer, Puerto Rico celebrated the first phase of a solar-plus-storage microgrid installation that will provide continuous and reliable electricity to power local businesses and essential services. The microgrid was developed in a collaborative process led by the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator (PRSBA), along with the nonprofit Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña and the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez. The U.S. Economic Development Administration finances the PRSBA program. It is managed by Pathstone Corp.

The project is the largest in Puerto Rico’s central mountains region. The microgrid’s initial phase will power local businesses as well as two EV charging station. It has 40 kW solar PV and 35 KWH battery storage. The complete microgrid will have approximately 225kW of solar PV and 500kWh battery storage when the next phases are added. Borintek, a local company that produces solar energy, was responsible for the development and installation of the microgrid. 

Castañer is located in an isolated area between the towns of Adjuntas, Lares, Maricao and Yauco, which endured more than six months without power after Hurricane Maria in 2017. The microgrid’s first phase is designed to provide uninterrupted power services in case of emergency. The first real-world test was a success. The microgrid provided electricity to the businesses even after a fire at the power plant resulted in a huge island-wide blackout on April 2022.

“After several months of work with the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña and the University of Puerto Rico, we can see the result of our collaboration in the well-being of the Castañer community,” says Loraima Jaramillo Nieves, program manager at IREC. “This microgrid is the first of many great projects that are coming up in rural Puerto Rico.”

“I visited the town of Castañer several times after Hurricane Maria, and I could see how the businesses made numerous efforts to maintain services in the community,” comments Maribel Hernández, assistant manager of the project. “The residents were plunged into darkness for more than six months. The residents were unable to access electricity for their medical and food needs, which adversely affected their quality life. This is what motivated us to launch, through the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, our first Resiliencia Energética Fotovoltaica Comunitaria (ReEnFoCo) project through the Castañer microgrid.”

This is the first of two microgrids to be developed with support from the PRSBA. The second microgrid will be in Maricao.