On Sunday night, February 11, an explosion shocked the citizens of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital. An electrical substation exploded for unknown reasons, causing a devastating fire. The island’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA) told NBC News that several municipalities were without power, including those in the capital.
This explosion comes just five months after one of the most tragic natural disasters in history hit Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria was a category four storm that knocked out much of the island’s power. Still, five months later, the power grid had not been fully restored with more than 400,000 people still without power, and the blast that occurred Sunday night set back the progress significantly.
A serious financial crisis can be blamed for the delay in power restoration, causing the longest blackout in U.S. history, according to NBC News. PREPA is worth roughly $4 billion, carries $9 billion in debt, and has long been criticized for political patronage and inefficiency. The group has also been struggling with frequent blackouts on the island since 2016 due to infrastructure that is far too old.
Just three years ago, coal-fired power plants supplied about 33% of U.S. electric power. Today, the U.S. is leaning towards more sustainable solutions. In fact, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello told lawmakers back in November that he wants solar energy to provide as much as a quarter of the island’s electricity.
“I am 100 percent backing renewables,” said Rossello to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This is an opportunity to make microgrids in Puerto Rico so they can be sustained in different areas.”
Tech companies like Tesla, Duracell, and the German energy storage firm Sonnen are already sending battery and solar supplies to Puerto Rico in order to help with the project. Transforming Puerto Rico into a solar power energy island could greatly help it stand up against major storms in the future, says Vox.