Maricao selected for 2nd solar microgrid project under Solar Business Assn.
By The Star Staff
The small western municipality of Maricao is closer to the goal of drawing 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) announced this week that it has selected the town to develop a solar-plus-storage microgrid through the Puerto Rican Solar Business Association (PRSBA) that would provide clean and affordable energy to the municipality.
Microgrids use solar energy and battery storage to provide a sustainable, local electricity source independent of the power grid.
Maricao is the second island community to be selected to develop a solar microgrid under the program. The nearby mountain village of Castañer was the first.
A small municipality located to the southeast of Mayagüez at the western end of the Cordillera Central, Maricao competed with 12 communities for the microgrid project, which will include some 75 kilowatts in solar photovoltaic installations, according to IREC. The project will be in the town center and will benefit diverse community facilities including health care providers, banks, and other businesses that provide service to the town’s population of about 5,430, creating a system in an area that experiences daily power outages, according to a statement.
IREC will lead the support for Maricao in all phases of the microgrid project, with engineering and technical support from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez and in partnership with a local nonprofit, the Monte Azul Foundation. Funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and co-led by IREC and Pathstone Corp., the PRSBA is helping Puerto Rico use alternative sources of energy through expanded finance options and technical assistance to solar businesses.
“We are particularly enthusiastic about working with Maricao to achieve energy resiliency for their business sector,” said Carlos Alberto Velázquez López, the program director for IREC in Puerto Rico. “In this project we can tie community development with energy justice and resiliency to provide Maricao, one of the most isolated municipalities in Puerto Rico, an equal opportunity for a dependable and affordable energy infrastructure. This is a project that does justice to the current population of Maricao and brings with it the possibility of economic development for future populations.”
Monte Azul submitted the application for the project and led community organizing efforts along with the municipal government, small business owners, and residents. Monte Azul focuses on sustainable economic development in Puerto Rico’s rural areas by promoting a robust and equitable food system and energy justice.
“This is a game changer for Maricao,” said Andrew Hermann, executive director of Monte Azul Foundation. “The microgrid will increase the reliability of energy, which will enhance quality of life. The project will also reduce power outages and the cost of electricity for small business owners in town, creating a positive ripple effect in the local economy of Maricao.”
Maricao Mayor Wilfredo “Juny” Ruiz Feliciano expressed his excitement for the project and the positive impact it will have on the municipality.
“Being able to produce our own energy provides greater resilience to any event that affects the fragile electrical power system we currently have,” he said. “With the coming cost increases and system instability, the microgrid is the alternative to the present and future.”