Hurricane Maria’s Turbulent Wake Leaves Behind An Island Of Opportunity

By Susan Reed
Originally published on WBUR
October 3, 2017

Angel Rodriguez poses next to his belongings in front of his house, destroyed by Hurricane Maria, in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.
Image: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Well before September’s storms, Puerto Rico suffered from a Gordian Knot of financial problems. Deep in debt, it was hard for the island to raise revenue through taxes because so many working people had left to seek better jobs on the mainland. Now longtime residents who lost homes, businesses and the jobs are evacuating. Puerto Rico’s tax base keeps shrinking at a time when the cash-strapped government needs money to fix storm damage.

The destruction caused by Maria offers Puerto Rico the chance to “leapfrog their energy system to the next generation of electric grids,” said Larry Sherwood,  president and CEO of IREC, an independent organization that promotes renewable energy. He suggested building the grid with as many renewables connected to it as possible, making sure that critical needs such as shelters, hospitals, emergency management facilities and water treatment centers be powered by a combination of sources and backed up with batteries so they could still operate if the grid goes down. Massachusetts has already launched an effort to update its energy storage.

Sherwood recommended building resiliency into the grid using smarter inverters, an interactive technology that keeps power going to one area after it has failed in another.

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Image: Ramon Espinosa/AP