About 140 students, teachers, administrators, and neighboring community members this week celebrated the installation of a solar plus storage solution at the SU Manuel Ortiz school in the Yabucoa district of Puerto Rico, one of the regions hardest hit by Hurricane Maria last year. The solution, which is called a SunCrate, was installed on Saturday August 11 and features 12kW of PV capacity and 52 kWh of storage capacity.
The system is large enough to power the entire school should the grid go down. In addition, the school functions as a designated Community Emergency Response Center in the event of future natural disasters.
“In the aftermath of the hurricane the school was used as a central food and water distribution point. In future hurricane events, they’ll also have power so members of the community can come in and charge their phones and keep critical lines of communication open,” explained Charles Moseley, a Program Director in Black & Veatch in an interview.
When A Good Deed Becomes a Product
The project began as a humanitarian effort. Companies from across the renewable energy spectrum – Black and Veatch, Tesla, Canadian Solar and Lloyd Electric — came together to build a resilient solution for hard-hit Puerto Rico.
“Basically, whenever we would tell somebody about our intent to help the school in Yabucoa, people got excited and companies came together very quickly,” said Moseley.
Their efforts resulted in a product that is “scalable, modular, portable,” he said.
SunCrates can generate 12 to 29 kW, depending on the configuration, with up to 128 kWh of production per day. Maximum storage for a SunCrate is 135 kWh.
“It deploys quickly [because] everything is self-contained within a 20-foot container,” said Moseley, adding “we can scale up to a 40-foot container or we can daisy chain multiple units depending on the required load.”
Moseley declined to reveal the cost of the system but explained that the project was funded by donations from corporations and private individuals. The school will not have to pay anything for the SunCrate and local workers will be trained on how to maintain it. Plus, the Principal of the school and the science teacher will be able to see its performance on their smart phones.
“So, they will be able to manage performance and we’ll be able to monitor it remotely as well,” said Moseley.
The SunCrate will also lower the school’s ongoing electricity costs by providing a reliable source of renewable energy on site, according to Black and Veatch.
John Ericson, who served as the project manager for the SunCrate installation said that the systems are designed so that they compete with diesel gensets on cost, which can run between $0.45 and $1.00 per kWh when you factor in the cost of the fuel and the maintenance of the generator.
“Depending on the configuration and its geographic location, the SunCrate can produce power in the range of 18 to 30 cents per kWh,” said Moseley. In addition, he said that SunCrates can be used in tandem with a generator to make the generator run more efficiently.
Ericson said the Tesla Powerwall has a 10-year warranty and the panels have a 20-year warranty.
Beyond Puerto Rico
The SunCrate is a solution for grid resilience in lots of places, according to Black and Veatch.
“These are also relevant not just in a disaster response context, they are also relevant in mission readiness and international development,” said Moseley.
Now that the system has been created and tweaked, Moseley said that SunCrates can be manufactured in 2-3 weeks and once onsite, they can be installed and delivering power in 2-3 days.
SunCrates enable Black and Veatch to bring power to communities and small facilities in rural areas such as sub-Sahara Africa and rural India where it’s too expensive to run power lines, said Moseley.
And beyond the SunCrate solution itself, Black and Veatch is heavily involved in microgrid development in many places in the U.S. including other areas of Puerto Rico said Moseley and Ericson. In 2016, the microgrid installed at the Black and Veatch world headquarters won an Edison Gold award.