Elon Musk wants to overhaul Puerto Rico’s outdated electrical grid
Why it matters to you
Elon Musk could be about to get the opportunity to show what Tesla’s solar energy technology can do on a large scale.
In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still without power. The island’s infrastructure was due for an upgrade even before the recent natural disaster, and now it seems that one of the biggest names in the technology industry might be taking on the mission to make that happen.
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has already sent hundreds of its Powerwall batteries to Puerto Rico as a stopgap. On Thursday, October 5, he took to Twitter to state that his company has the means to provide the necessary support to rebuild its power grid.
“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” tweeted Musk. He went on to stress that the company would need the blessing of the Puerto Rican government, the Public Utility Commission, any commercial stakeholders, and the island’s residents.
Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello responded to Musk just hours later, according to a report from the Huffington Post. He suggested that the island could be a “flagship project” for Tesla’s technology, giving the company an opportunity to demonstrate just how effective its methods of harvesting and storing solar power can be.
Last year, Tesla subsidiary SolarCity led a project that installed a microgrid system on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa. As a result, the company stated that almost 100 percent of its power needs would be catered to by renewable energy.
This new technology obviously has some major benefits from an environmental perspective. It’s also much more reliable, and would likely be more resilient when future storms roll in — not to mention cheaper to run than the current system, which relies on imported oil.
There are big questions to be asked about the timescale of the project, as there is a pressing need to return power to residents. It took a year to install the microgrid system on Ta’u, an island that spans just 17 square miles. Puerto Rico is much larger, at 3,515 square miles.
Musk is confident that scalability won’t be an issue, but for residents of Puerto Rico, such a dramatic overhaul of the power infrastructure might take too long to come to pass.