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Federal study calls for rooftop solar panels to meet Puerto Rican renewable energy goals
Puerto Rico should install rooftop solar panels in locations such as airports and industrial areas to reach national renewable energy goals, a federal office said in a study published Monday.
Puerto Rico passed legislation in 2019 requiring the island to redesign its electric grid after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria, including a requirement to transition to 100 percent renewables by 2050.
More than $12 billion in disaster funds were announced in early 2022 for recovery and the redesign. In December, Congress appropriated another $1 billion for the grid, less than both the $3 billion requested by President Biden and the $5 billion for solar panels a coalition of House Democrats said was needed.
The two-year study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that there is not sufficient land available on the island for enough wind-power infrastructure to meet the goal and Puerto Rico should instead install solar infrastructure on sites such as brownfields, industrial areas and airports.
The study estimated that Puerto Rico’s transmission system can bear the projected renewables growth over the next five to 15 years but that further grid upgrades will be necessary in the longer term, particularly for wind power.
The island is currently heavily dependent on fossil fuels for electricity production, with petroleum products in particular accounting for about 60 percent of energy consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Puerto Rico has higher electricity costs than any U.S. state except Hawaii, which the EIA attributes to its reliance on fossil fuels. The preliminary report estimated installing new renewables would be more cost-effective than maintaining the existing system and in terms of operating costs is already on track to be more cost-effective by 2025.
Researchers ran simulations of future hurricanes and found that it was easier to restore power when using infrastructure that is spread out more broadly rather than with a handful of larger, centralized hubs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to publish the final version of the study in the year ahead.
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