Building Community Resilience: Off-Grid Renewable Energy Microgrids

In This Together MediaIn the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, the island of Puerto Rico suffered socially and economically, in large part because of the near total destruction of the Commonwealth’s electrical infrastructure. The disaster yielded the largest and most expensive response in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) history. Even four months after the hurricanes, about 450,000 of 1.5 million electricity customers in Puerto Rico still did not have power.

Initially, this project focused on the creation of a three-phase deployment plan to install a microgrid of three “Power Towers” to an in-need community on the island. The Power Tower, designed and engineered by Boulder-based Independent Power Systems, is a unique, all-in-one clean energy solution that combines small wind, solar photovoltaics, and energy storage components to provide a resilient and reliable means of electricity generation.

The MENV team conducted all necessary preliminary research on current and historical disaster relief and resiliency projects and created a pitch deck for fundraising efforts. While the necessary funding was not obtained, the project development and management work opened up larger opportunities for research within the still-nascent microgrid market.

With their remaining time, the MENV team will adapt their initial project work into a Market Feasibility Analysis for the Power Tower, including an analysis of competing technologies and market profiles for regions such as the Caribbean and the Arctic where a microgrid of Power Towers would be especially well-suited. Additional research includes the identification of other market opportunities for the Power Tower within the financial and technological mechanisms that govern the operation of off-grid distributed energy projects.