By The Star Staff
As part of the island’s rebuilding efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working in partnership with a national laboratory and two local universities to support the design of resilient energy systems for Puerto Rico.
Through the alliance, the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (RUM) and the Gurabo Campus of Ana G. Méndez University are working hand in hand with Sandia National Laboratories to bring together the laboratory’s tools with the technical expertise and local knowledge of university professors and students.
This U.S. Department of Energy-endorsed laboratory in Livermore, California supports the federal government’s efforts to modernize the energy grid and encourages the use of renewable energy for critical infrastructure.
“We are proud that the research of Puerto Rican students and faculty are contributing to the development of cutting-edge technologies for resilient energy systems,” Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said. “Once again, local talent is at the center of recovery in their communities.”
There are many outcomes from the research that emerge through these collaborations, such as workforce development, community engagement, and the refinement of tools and data. On the RUM campus, for example, the team led by Erick Aponte Bezares, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, evaluated the feasibility of microgrids to support rural energy systems.
From January 2021 through June 2022, faculty and student researchers from the department collaborated with Sandia Labs on tools aimed at identifying the infrastructure needed to increase resilience in communities, and determining the microgrid options the community has for energizing that infrastructure.
As part of the collaboration, the RUM worked with Caño Martín Peña in San Juan and the Corcovada community in Añasco. In both places, they discussed the studies developed with Sandia and then presented the options that exist for the design of microgrids, mainly with renewable energy.
From the research aspect, RUM undergraduate students use these tools for their design projects; and graduate students use them for their master’s theses.
Aponte Bezares said the research has been very productive as it provides a better understanding of what the needs of specific sectors are.
“This experience adds to the students’ education because they are dealing with problems that are unique to the communities,” he said. “The tools also provide technical assessments that they share with community leaders.”