The company quietly helps rebuild the island's electrical systems.
According to tweets from the President of the United States, "The electric power grid in Puerto Rico is totally shot." He says there are large numbers of generators, but apparently there are also batteries – courtesy of Elon Musk and Tesla Energy. According to Fortune Magazine, the company quietly moved in.
Musk, who is busy tweeting about a new rocket, has been completely silent about the Puerto Rico efforts, and also about the fact that he personally donated $250,000 to the relief efforts. According to VOX, as of Wednesday, nearly all of the island’s 1.57 million electricity customers were still without power.
As soon as the storm passed, Tesla began sending hundreds of Powerwall battery systems that can be paired with solar panels to the devastated island in an effort to restore electric power there. And the shipments of Powerwall battery systems are continuing, a Tesla spokesman confirmed....Tesla employees are currently in Puerto Rico working on installations of the battery systems and installing or repairing solar there. The employees are coordinating efforts with local organizations.
PREPA, the electric company on the island, has a massive $9 billion debt, as Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell has explained, and in July it defaulted on an interest payment. For years, it hasn’t had the money to invest in modernizing Puerto Rico’s electrical systems. Even without hurricanes, power outages are frequent on the island. Making things worse: There aren’t enough workers to fix the infrastructure. Young people have been leaving the island in droves as the economy has tightened, and older workers have been retiring en masse, securing their pensions.
According to the New York Times, it may take four to six months to re-string all the lines and reconstruct the grid.
Getting power back to Puerto Rico will be daunting and expensive. Transformers, poles and power lines snake from coastal areas across hard-to-access mountains. In some cases, the poles have to be maneuvered in place with helicopters.
On ThinkProgress, Joe Romm suggests that Puerto Rico rebuild with microgrids, built around cheap renewable power and batteries. Perhaps Elon Musk is beating everyone to the punch and doing exactly that.