Photos by Hunter Johansson / Solar Responders

Estación de Bomberos Juan Muñiz Saldivia 

Rincon, Puerto Rico

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. It was the largest blackout in U.S. history, with an estimated 3.4 billion customer hours of electricity service lost. The hurricane left most people without power for weeks, and for some it took nearly a year for power to be restored. The hurricane and the resulting power outages had a death toll of nearly 3,000 in the 6 months after the storm.

Rincon, a beach town on the western coast of the island, was not immune from the devastation and destruction of Hurricane Maria. After the hurricane, the local fire station, Estación de Bomberos Juan Muñiz Saldivia, relied on a diesel generator and bi-weekly oil deliveries for electricity. It took several weeks for the station to begin receiving diesel deliveries, and the station was without fuel for two weeks, meaning that they were entirely non-operable. This was a precarious situation for the fire station, which serves more than 15,000 people, including residents, tourists, and businesses.

Fire stations are a critical community service with major impacts on public safety. If a fire station does not have continuous, reliable power, their ability to respond to fires, medical emergencies, and other public safety issues is limited. In addition to keeping emergency dispatch capabilities up and running, fire stations also rely on electricity to maintain their fire trucks and other equipment. Diesel generators, the traditional backup power system of choice, are both highly polluting and notoriously unreliable.

In January 2019, a solar+storage system was installed at the Estación de Bomberos Juan Muñiz Saldivia. The system includes a 7.7kW AC / 10.05 kW DC rooftop solar array and two Tesla Powerwalls 2.0, totaling 27 kWh of storage. The system was installed by Puerto Rico-based Zayas Engineering, who also donated $2,500 toward roof repair. The nonprofit Solar Responders coordinated the effort and provided funding for the solar+storage system.

The new solar+storage system provides clean, resilient power, with no local air pollution and no reliability concerns due to fuel supply disruptions. When the main grid fails, the solar+storage system will power critical needs such as communication equipment (radios and computer systems), 911 dispatcher calls, cooling fans, lights, and the community resource room. Even without sunlight, the system could keep critical loads powered and operational for several days.

Installation Details

Year Commissioned: 2019

Services Provided: Backup power

Supported Infrastructure: Fire station

Solar: 7.7 kW AC / 10.05 kW DC

Storage: Two Tesla Powerwalls 2.0, 13.5 kWh each for a total of 27 kWh of storage

Project Partners: Solar Responders, Zayas Engineering, Puerto Rico Fire Department