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Maricao solar microgrid project gets underway


The Maricao project is the second microgrid to be developed by the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. The first, which went online in May, was in the village of Castañer in Lares.

By The Star Staff


The Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) have initiated the process for developing a solar energy microgrid that will provide a secure source of electricity to the town of Maricao, according to a recent statement.


Both organizations published a request for proposals (RFP) for a solar photovoltaic (PV) project with a capacity of some 140 kilowatts of direct current and 169 kilowatt-hours of storage. As detailed in the RFP, the Maricao microgrid will include solar PV panels on the rooftops of five commercial buildings, two municipal buildings and three residences.


Maricao, the second smallest municipality in Puerto Rico, is located in a mountainous region at the western edge of the Cordillera Central between the towns of Yauco, Sabana Grande, San Germán, Mayagüez, Las Marías and Lares. Landslides are very common in the area due to its topography and climatic conditions in Puerto Rico. The location negatively affects electric power service for prolonged periods of time due to limited access following emergencies. Long-term power outages reduce the quality of life for residents and threaten access to essential services.


The Maricao project is the second microgrid developed in partnership between the two organizations. The first was a microgrid in the village of Castañer in Lares, which went online in May. The two microgrids are supported by the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator, an initiative led by IREC and Pathstone Corp. under a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.


Carlos Alberto Velázquez López, IREC’s program director in Puerto Rico, said the Maricao microgrid solidifies the work done by IREC and the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de Montaña to support and empower rural communities.


“Due to the tragedy of Hurricane Maria and the chronic state of ‘energy emergency’ that Puerto Rico has lived through for more than a decade, nonprofits and the private sector have taken the lead in developing resiliency and energy justice initiatives with active participation from impacted communities,” Velázquez López said. “We have seen a lot of interest in these issues across the United States, recognizing that the integration of distributed generation into the grid is of vital importance for the reliability and resiliency of electricity networks in Puerto Rico and throughout the country.”


C.P. Smith, the executive director of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, added: “With the launch of the request for proposals for the Maricao Microgrid, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña continues with a firm footing to develop cost-effective and resilient renewable energy projects for the communities of the central mountain range of Puerto Rico.”


Smith added that by launching the Maricao RFP, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña begins Phase 2 of its Community Resilience Through Photovoltaic Energy, or ReEnFoCo, project.


“In collaboration with IREC, Fundación Monte Azul, and leaders in Maricao, we will demonstrate what is possible in the center of the island,” Smith said.


For the development of the Maricao microgrid, the RFP directs the selected party to design, install and connect the solar energy system to the electrical grid. The project contractor can choose to provide financing via a 20-year loan, through a lease agreement, or through a long-term power purchase agreement. The developer may also choose to design a microgrid project that connects all the structures or two or more interconnected microgrids that allow electrical distribution.


Interested parties may contact microrred@cooperativahidroelectrica.coop to submit a proposal. The Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña will hold a virtual information session today at 3 p.m. AST, and a site visit in Maricao on Friday at 11 a.m. Proposals may be submitted until Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The full RFP can be downloaded at: https://irecusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Request-for-Proposals-Microrred-Maricao-Rev-6-09DEC22.pdf

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