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 PRSBA program, led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and Pathstone Corp., is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The project is the first to be installed in the central mountain region of Puerto Rico. The first phase of the microgrid will power local businesses and two EV charging stations, totaling 40 kW of solar PV and 35 kWh in battery storage. When the next phases are added, the complete microgrid will include approximately 225 kW in solar PV and 500 kWh in battery storage. Installation and development of the microgrid was led by a local solar company Borintek.
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 first phase of the microgrid is designed with the goal to provide uninterrupted electric power services during future emergencies. The first real-world test was successful. The microgrid continued to provide electricity to the businesses when a fire at a power plant caused a massive island-wide blackout in 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 lack of electricity affected their quality of life since they could no longer attend to food and medicine needs. 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 that will be developed with the support of the PRSBA. The second will be in Maricao.