It’s Thursday, March 16, and a rural community in Puerto Rico now has its own microgrid.

Workers install the solar microgrid in Adjuntas

Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, is celebrating a milestone this week as it completes the final phase in a project to boost its energy resiliency. The community’s 17,600 residents now host the archipelago’s first cooperatively managed solar microgrid — a network of photovoltaic panels and battery storage units that will use renewable energy to keep the lights on and power flowing during a power outage.

“This is a first-of-its-kind project,” said Kate Trujillo, deputy director of the nonprofit Honnold Foundation, which helped install the microgrid alongside the Adjuntas-based nonprofit Casa Pueblo. “It’s amazing to see it all coalescing.”

The system includes some 700 panels mounted on seven buildings in the town’s central plaza and a battery storage system capable of providing up to 187 kilowatts of power. The batteries can provide enough off-grid electricity to keep 14 downtown businesses running for up to 10 days, serving as community hubs in case of an extended power outage. Business owners and community members will run the microgrid through a nonprofit called the Community Solar Energy Association of Adjuntas.

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The system was built in response to Puerto Rico’s increasingly severe hurricanes and the prolonged power outages they have caused for Adjuntas residents — some of whom have gone without electricity for as long as 11 months. Last fall, Hurricane Fiona destroyed half of Puerto Rico’s transmission lines and distribution infrastructure, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people.

As hurricanes and other climate-related natural disasters grow more destructive, many communities across the U.S. are turning to microgrids. One report published in 2021 said the cumulative capacity of such systems could more than triple by 2030, creating almost half a million jobs nationwide and billions of dollars in economic activity.

In Adjuntas, Casa Pueblo and the Honnold Foundation will inaugurate the microgrid on Saturday with a community-wide celebration. Arturo Massol-Deyá, Casa Pueblo’s executive director and a 2019 Grist 50 honoree, said he wants the event to make “a political statement” to get more of Puerto Rico off fossil fuels.

“What we are doing with the microgrid is a reference for what can and should be done in other municipalities in Puerto Rico,” he told me. “We can change our energy system, it can be done — we have shown that it can be done.”

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Correction: A previous version of this newsletter misrepresented the type of battery used in the microgrid’s battery storage system.

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