Puerto Rico

Transitioning Puerto Rico Health Centers to a Solar-Powered Smart Grid

Solar panels on the roof of Migrant Health Center in Las Marias, P.R., on September 11, 2018. The solar power system was funded by Direct Relief. (Erika P. Rodriguez for Direct Relief)
Solar panels on the roof of Migrant Health Center in Las Marias, P.R., on September 11, 2018. The solar power system was funded by Direct Relief. (Erika P. Rodriguez for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief this month completed the installation of an integrated solar and battery system at Migrant Health Center in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, helping to ensure the facility will remain online even through a major disaster like Hurricane Maria.

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The project is one of several major solar and battery installations underway at health centers across Puerto Rico, the next of which is a $700,000 system at the Centro de Salud Familiar health center in Arroyo.

A Direct Relief-funded solar power and battery system at Centro de Salud Familiar health center in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, is scheduled to come online by Hurricane Season 2019 (Anna Carla Lopez-Carr/Direct Relief)
A Direct Relief-funded solar power and battery system at Centro de Salud Familiar health center in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, is scheduled to come online by Hurricane Season 2019 (Anna Carla Lopez-Carr/Direct Relief)

The Arroyo solar power and battery system is scheduled for completion next month and will represent the largest solar installation on a health center since the protracted blackout caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Once the system comes online, Centro de Salud Familiar anticipates savings of $81,000 in electricity costs.

Strengthening Puerto Rico’s Critical Infrastructure

The solar installations at health centers and clinics in Puerto Rico are part of a broader push by Direct Relief and other nonprofits to strengthen Puerto Rico’s critical infrastructure.

Click on the map above to explore solar power projects installed across Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
Click on the map above to explore solar power projects installed across Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

At least 40 other solar projects are underway by organizations that include the Clinton Foundation, the Hispanic Federation, the Solar Foundation, and Resilient Power Puerto Rico.

Bolstering Community Resilience to Future Storms

In addition to outfitting health centers and clinics with solar and battery backup, Direct Relief has completed 11 installations of solar-powered water pumps and public laundries, helping ensure rural communities can access clean and safe water even during a grid blackout.

Another 20 solar-power water pumps are scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.

A water pump flows freely when powered by a set of solar panels and batteries in Bauta Abajo. The power system is one of two in the community, both of which are expected to be running this week. (Tony Morain/Direct Relief)
A water pump flows freely when powered by a set of solar panels and batteries in Bauta Abajo. The power system is one of two in the community. (Tony Morain/Direct Relief)

These Direct Relief-funded projects, once completed, will total 2.5-megawatt hours of battery storage and 1.5 megawatts of solar energy.

Direct Relief’s efforts to prepare Puerto Rico for future disasters extend beyond solar and include:

  • Boosting medical and vaccine cold storage: 89 health centers across the island are being furnished with 164 FDA-compliant pharmaceutical and laboratory refrigerators and freezers with enough capacity to store roughly six million vials of vaccines.
  • Extending health services through mobile health: 15 mobile medical units and 15 off-road, patient transport vehicles have been purchased for health centers and clinics, allowing them to extend mobile medical services to remote communities throughout Puerto Rico.
  • Expanding access to specialty care through telehealth: With thousands of physicians leaving Puerto Rico in recent years for the mainland U.S., the island’s health centers and clinics, particularly those in rural communities, are experiencing severe staffing shortfalls. Direct Relief is addressing the issue by establishing telehealth programs at several health facilities in underserved areas, expand access to medical specialists from within Puerto Rico and from the mainland U.S.
  • Ensuring redundant communications: Providing more than 70 long-range radios to health centers, ensuring their ability to communicate across local and island-wide channels during a communication outage.
  • Equipping first responders: Each member of Puerto Rico’s Medical Reserve Corps received an Emergency Medical Backpack for triage medical outreach activities during emergencies. The 350 ruggedized, U.S. Surgeon General-approved packs contain disaster-specific supplies and equipment, including items for infection control, diagnostics and trauma care.
  • Prepositioning caches of critical medicines and medical supplies: 80 health facilities across the island will receive pre-packed modules of emergency medical supplies in advance of the 2019 hurricane season. Items include a range of medications for chronic diseases, mental health conditions, as well as the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, which addresses the increase in overdose deaths in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

In total, Direct Relief has provided Puerto Rico health centers and clinics with more than $71 million in medical aid and invested more than $16 million in community resilience initiatives. That includes more than $4 million for solar energy projects to avert interruptions in medical care caused by natural disasters like Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico’s flag waves high over the community of Orocovis. (Tony Morain, Direct Relief)
Puerto Rico’s flag waves high over the community of Orocovis. (Tony Morain/Direct Relief)

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