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Monday, October 09, 2017

Renewables in the Wake of the Caribbean Hurricanes

I couple of weeks ago, I suggested crowd funding solar lights and chargers for Puerto Rico and the other islands devastated by this year's hurricanes.  One of the groups I sent that piece to was the Solar Electric Light Fund ( and they let me know a few days ago that they have launched a crowd funding campaign for solar lights and chargers, using d.light's S300 mobile charger + solar light, LED Rechargeable Lantern (  You can contribute at with Catholic Charities USA distributing the systems to those most in need.

Rocky Mountain Institute has been working with the Clinton Climate  Initiative (CCI) and the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation (CARILEC) ( on an Islands Energy Program ( aiming to accelerate the transition to renewables in 10 island Caribbean countries (Anguilla, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Colombia (San Andrés and Providencia), Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos) and The Seychelles, installing 95 megawatts of renewable energy, and leveraging $300 million in financing for island energy projects by 2020.  I'm sure they are adjusting and speeding up their timetable.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico and Elon Musk of Tesla had a 25-minute phone conversation Friday night October 6, 2017 discussing relief efforts.  Teams from Tesla and Puerto Rico’s energy sector will continue the talks early next week, Rosselló told USA Today.  “I told him because of the devastation, if there is a silver lining, we can start re-conceptualizing how we want to produce energy here in Puerto Rico and distribute it and do it in a more reliable fashion,” Rosselló said. “It was a very positive first step.”

Richard Branson ( has said, "My thoughts are turning to working with others to help create a long-term Marshall Plan for the BVI, and for the Caribbean to be reconstructed and rejuvenated with clean energy and new jobs."

The Solar Energy Industries Association is coordinating efforts by the solar industry to aid relief efforts ( and I suspect that there will be a growing recognition of what this new energy industry can do on short notice and for the long term.

What is needed is renewable energy at all scales from basic - light, phone, radio, battery charging - to household, business, and enterprise microgrids (hospitals first).

Most islands going majority renewable are at the 10 - 15,000 population scale.  Hawaii is planning for 70% renewables by 2030 but Puerto Rico is 3.5 million and is facing months of repair to their old energy system before returning to normal.  Will small and medium scale renewables tide them over? There are, perhaps, some lessons to be learned from Bangladesh, in relation to renewables deployment and climate change adaptation:

Back in 2004 I wrote about a possible Solar Product Chain (

I want to make a series of steppingstone products to full solar electric power.  From the smallest button batteries up to dry cell and USB, 6 volt, 12 volt systems to integrate with bicycles, motorcycles, and cars, and to AC power through inverters.

solar powered LED light - flashlight, keychain or backpack fobsolar jewelry - rings, bracelets, necklaces, with solar charging brooch and rechargeable battery packsolar bicycle light (for visibility)This set of products uses button batteries, CR2016 and CR2032 size and hearing aid batteries, for instance. The simplest system is a solar cell, with a blocking diode, a set or rechargeable batteries, and a single LED

solar/dynamo flashlight/radio and battery chargerThe charger works on AA and other dry cell sizes, possibly up to 12 volts. A radio and flashlight are what is recommended in case of emergency and disaster. If the extra set of batteries is rechargeable, the solar/dynamo system can produce electricity day or night by sunlight or muscle power as long as the batteries can carry a charge.

solar car battery charger (one square foot)12 volt (and multiples)Every car can become a "hybrid vehicle" by installing an extra battery and a control system to charge from the alternator when the engine's battery is finished. Battery switching, with 12 volt or dry cell or even button batteries is a key concept in the solar transition.

one window solar electric system (four square feet)12 volt, with AC inverter and possible grid connectThe one window system is 4 square feet of solar collector and should be almost as easy to install as an air conditioner. Open the window, erect the frame, aim it at the sun, attach collector, plug it in, and close the window.
There should be a consistent look and feel to all the products along the product chain and as much inter-operability as possible.

I've contacted people at MIT who are about to have their annual Energy Hackathon ( about the possibility of working on Caribbean energy reconstruction and the possibility of opening up the Hackathon through MIT EdX to all those around the world who wish to contribute.  I dream of a global brainstorm to make the Caribbean 100% clean energy powered now.  There is also the start of a discussion around a presentation on this topic at the next NE Sustainable Energy Association's Building Energy conference in March 2018 (

Perhaps the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria can result in a transition to clean energy in the Caribbean at a scale and a speed that we have not yet dared to imagine.

RMI is using the Islands Energy Playbook to plan their approach ( and MIT's D-Lab has an Off-Grid Energy Roadmap ( which may also be useful as we build our clean energy future.


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