Technology providers bring light to Puerto Rico school


A host of power sector technology providers have collaborated to bring light to the  SU Manuel Ortiz school in Puerto Rico.

Eleven months since Hurricane Maria plunged the three-building school into darkness, the school and its 140 students have reliable power. Resilient electricity service was provided over the weekend to the SU Manuel Ortiz school through an innovative scalable, plug-and-play, sunshine-to-energy module pioneered by SunCrate Energy, supported by Black & Veatch support.

Tesla, Canadian Solar and Lloyd Electric were part of the collaboration to bring resilient microgrid power to SU Manuel Ortiz in Puerto Rico.

The “SunCrate”, is an effective mitigation measure to back up the traditional power supply from the grid. The SunCrate can also provide sustainable power in the face of ongoing system outages and future natural disasters without requiring diesel fuel.

The humanitarian effort to return sustainable electricity to the K-8 school, found along the island’s hard-hit southeastern coast, drew donated equipment and expertise from a collection of North American companies.

“We are grateful for this initiative, which will equip this school with the technology needed to become a resilient campus and not dependent on the status of the power grid. This means that if we are hit with future harmful weather events, the school will be able to open more quickly and continue providing services to students,” Puerto Rico secretary of education Julia Keleher said.

The SunCrate harnesses a scalable rapid-response design developed by Black & Veatch and manufactured by SunCrate Energy.  Electricity will be generated by an array of 325-watt CS6U-Poly modules from Canadian Solar, one of the world’s biggest solar power companies and a leading manufacturer of solar photovoltaic modules. California-based Tesla contributed advanced battery energy storage through various Powerwall units, capable of storing excess solar power and delivering it outside peak generation periods.  Lloyd Electric Co. of Wichita Falls, Texas and Lord Electric partnered to support delivery and installation of the SunCrate.

“As families in the region begin to prepare for the school year, this community is still impacted by the longest U.S. power outage in history,” said Dolf Ivener, owner of SunCrate Energy, which is donating the SunCrate.

“SunCrate, with its rapid deployment and use of renewable energy, should give this school peace of mind and hopefully returns a touch of long-overdue normalcy to students and their parents. When it comes to consistent power, SunCrate is on duty.”

The SunCrate is a portable renewable energy system conceived by Ivener and designed and tested by Black & Veatch. Its modular design uses solar PV panels, inverters and batteries to store and provide electric power in support of critical services such as police, fire, schools, clinics and other community-level facilities.

A SunCrate can generate 23 to 156kWh per day and store 10kWh to 135kWh depending on configuration.  A SunCrate’s power generation and storage capacity can be easily scaled through daisy-chained configurations to accommodate larger buildings and loads.

Leveraging resources from Tesla, Canadian Solar, Lloyd Electric and Lord Electric, the unit will provide an estimated 52kWh of storable power without requiring the use of costlier diesel-powered generators; cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Its capabilities allow the school to strengthen its function as a designated Community Emergency Response Center in the event of future natural disasters.

“Canadian Solar has a long history of using solar power to support humanitarian efforts aiding victims of social injustice and natural disasters, including previous donations to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria,” said Shawn Qu, chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian Solar. “We are pleased to make the difference for these schoolchildren in Yabucoa who have been without reliable power for too long.”

The SunCrate will also substantially lower the school’s ongoing electricity costs by providing a reliable source of renewable energy on site.

“Through our experience providing engineering services in Puerto Rico for nearly 50 years, including dozens of specialised projects for local government and industrial clients, we see great potential for SunCrate as a source of resilient power for the Commonwealth’s remote schools and communities at large,” said Charles Moseley, a program director in Black & Veatch’s water business. “We hope that the deployment of the SunCrate … sets a precedent for facility and municipal level migro-grid efforts on the island and beyond.”

SunCrate also has broad potential applications in conflict/post-conflict environments and in rural electrification efforts in the developing world, serving as a resilient source of electricity within hours of its arrival on site. Of particular benefit, the system’s flexibility cuts fuel costs to a fraction of a generator’s typical consumption when they are used around the clock with maintenance requirements.