The future of Puerto Rico’s solar industry will depend on the strength and diversity of its workforce. It will take an estimated 19,000 solar workers by 2030 (up from about 2,000 today) to meet Puerto Rico’s ambitious clean energy goals. These job opportunities should be available to everyone.

At IREC, we are engaged with our partners in Puerto Rico to increase representation of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other diverse and underrepresented groups.

Río Piedras: A Landmark Solar Installation

At the Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan, IREC has partnered with the Hispanic Federation to install a 250 kW solar energy system on the rooftop. Río Piedras is Puerto Rico’s most important market, serving as a food distribution center for farmers across the island. It is also a community hub that provides groceries and other necessities for the surrounding neighborhood.

The market is located near the bustling residential communities of Capetillo, Venezuela, and Buen Consejo. Daily visitors include students, professors, and employees from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Residents and merchants from throughout the San Juan metropolitan area also frequent the market.

The Río Piedras market lost power for several months after Hurricane Maria in 2017. This solar installation will help provide energy security at the food market, and just as important it will reduce the carbon footprint. This installation is also an opportunity for many newly trained solar workers to gain experience in the industry. IREC worked with the installer, NEO ERA Energy Solutions, to prioritize the hiring of a diverse workforce that includes women and the LGBTQ+ community.

The Río Piedras market and our workforce development program were recently featured in the Puerto Rico newspaper El Nuevo Día.

Meet the Solar Workers

Ada Ramona Miranda started her career in the renewable energy industry through training programs focused on the inclusion of women, supported by Barefoot College and the conservation group Bosque Modelo. She hopes her own experience can help reduce barriers for more women to work in clean energy. “At every moment I thank all the women who’ve opened doors for us, because we aren’t the first ones here,” she said.

Kai Rivera Cruz was working as a baker when he first had the opportunity to work in solar through the Hispanic Federation, and he participated in more than 50 installations through the group Solar Libre. As a transgender man, he points out that people from all backgrounds deserve the chance to succeed. “Everyone has the capacity and the intelligence,” Kai says. The Río Piedras project has reinforced Kai’s plans to continue in the solar industry.  “It really goes with what I enjoy and with the ethics of my life.”

Our thanks to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy for making this project possible.

Ing. Rodolfo Serrano and Kai Rivera Cruz at the Río Piedras Market