Desperate for electricity, Puerto Rico children’s hospital goes solar

Nonprofit hospital hosting alternative-energy experiment between government, Tesla

By Ioanna Roumeliotis · CBC News

Puerto Rico is slowly rebuilding its electrical grid and the generating stations damaged by hurricane Maria, but for some residents the sun holds the best promise of restoring light.

And a hospital parking lot in San Juan covered in hundreds of solar panels has become a test area.

“There are a little bit under 800 solar panels,” says Juliana Canino, who runs the Hospital del Niño.

The nonprofit hospital is the only rehabilitation facility for children in Puerto Rico. It’s involved in one of the first alternative-energy experiments of its kind on the island, an agreement between the government and Tesla, the company best-known for electric cars.

The hospital’s microgrid is an alternative to the regular public grid. Microgrids are self-contained power systems with enough capacity to run a small neighbourhood or a large facility.

Canino expertly steps between the rows of panels as she gives a tour. “They were assembled and tested in eight days, and on a sunny day we can produce up to 250 kilowatts of energy.”

That’s enough electricity to power the hospital for about 20 hours a day. It relies on its generators for the rest.

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