Solar systems facilitated by nonprofit keep the lights on during blackout
By The Star Staff
The recent blackout in Puerto Rico confirmed the resilience of the nonprofit organization, Direct Relief, which benefits several health community centers, fire stations and communities not served by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA).
Direct Relief was able to support solar energy projects in community health centers, fire stations and aqueducts in
non-PRASA communities that allowed the continuity of health services, emergency response and access to drinking water through a donation of $50 million from the pharmaceutical company AbbVie in 2018 for the recovery and strengthening of the health services in Puerto Rico after the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
In the midst of the emergency that highlighted the instability of the electricity system in Puerto Rico, eight community health centers in which solar energy systems and batteries have been installed went into action.
They reported that they were operating at capacity.
The nonprofit organization Por Los Nuestro, which through a grant from Direct Relief installed solar energy systems in non-PRASA communities that depend on electric water pumps to supply drinking water, reported that around 24 community aqueducts out of 25 were operating properly during and after the islandwide blackout.
Anabelle Torres Colberg, who chairs the Por Los Nuestro board of directors, said that “for us as an entity, that blackout turned out to be the best reminder of why we continue fighting “for our own.”
“Thanks to a grant from Direct Relief, we have been able to energize 25 aqueducts and while many people were left without water due to not having electricity, all those 25 communities after the blackout had water,” Torres Colberg said. “There was no greater satisfaction for us than listening to the messages of the community leaders informing us that they had water uninterrupted.”
Meanwhile, the fire stations in which Direct Relief, with support from AbbVie, installed power systems with solar panels in Cataño and Guánica began to operate immediately during the emergency and during the day they continued to operate and load batteries.
Thus first responder services could remain in force in the face of power outages.
“The emergency that occurred in the past few days successfully tested several of our projects that, thanks to the funds of the pharmaceutical company AbbVie we were able to make it happen,” said Ivonne Rodríguez-Wiewall, executive adviser of Direct Relief. “In the midst of instability and uncertainty caused by a country in the dark, we are very pleased to ensure the continuity of medical services, preserve first responder operations, and ensure rural areas have uninterrupted access to drinking water.”