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In the municipality of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm visited IREC and our partners this week to discuss DOE’s ongoing initiatives in the area and to learn firsthand about the challenges and vicissitudes that Hurricane Maria presented to the people of the southeast area of the island.

The meeting took place at COSSMA Yabucoa, a nonprofit community health clinic which recently installed a solar and battery storage system to provide a secure and reliable electricity source. The installation was made possible through Solar Saves Lives, an initiative supported by The Solar Foundation (now merged with IREC) and partners including Direct Relief and The Hispanic Federation. 

Secretary Granholm was joined by the Mayor of Yabucoa, the Honorable Rafael Surillo; Carlos Velázquez, Program Director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) in Puerto Rico; and Charlotte Gossett Navarro, Puerto Rico Chief Director at the Hispanic Federation. The meeting was moderated by renowned Puerto Rican meteorologist Ada Monzón.

“The good news is, Puerto Rico’s already got 103,000 homes with solar, making Puerto Rico the number-five state per capita [for] solar installations,” Granholm said. “We want to see Puerto Rico as number one.”

In this meeting, Velázquez highlighted the importance of projects such as the Puerto Rico Resilience Hubs, a DOE-funded initiative that IREC will lead in partnership with the University of Puerto Rico—Mayagüez. This project aims to provide community facilities with distributed solar energy and battery storage so they have access to electricity during, before or after an extreme weather event or other grid-related disasters. IREC is now working with the communities of Villa Esperanza, Toa Alta, Guayabota, Yabucoa, El Cerro, Naranjito, Duey, San Germán, and Calle Abajo, Lajas.

Secretary Granholm noted that these and other initiatives are vital for providing reliable energy to Puerto Rico residents, including low-and- moderate-income (LMI) populations. This week, DOE also announced up to $440 million for solar companies and nonprofits to install solar energy systems. A future round of funding will support solar on community centers and multifamily housing.