Providing electricity to an entire island using solar energy has been done before, but if this really happens, it would be another huge step in the development of alternative energy.
Musk Offers To Rebuild Puerto Rico Power Grid
Puerto Rico is still in shambles after the devastation of Hurricane Maria several weeks ago. Only 10 percent of the island currently has access to electricity after the demolition of its power grid, with some parts of Puerto Rico not expected to have power for at least four to six months.
Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico's state-owned electricity company was in deep trouble. In July, it said that it had a debt of $9 billion, but needed $4 billion to revamp the island's power plants which had a median age of 40 years old.
The destruction of the Puerto Rico power grid, however, offers the chance for a complete rebuild, and it appears that Musk is stepping in to do the job.
Musk was asked on Twitter whether it was possible to rebuild the power grid of Puerto Rico using solar energy and battery systems. Musk responded positively, hinting that it can be done if he was given the opportunity.
The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017
Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, answered Musk, offering him a chance to talk.
@elonMusk Let's talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project. https://t.co/McnHKwisqc — Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) October 6, 2017
The stage has now apparently been set for Puerto Rico to be completely powered by solar energy. Will it actually happen?
Challenges To Powering Puerto Rico With Solar Energy
Converting an entire island to run on solar power has been done by Musk several times before, including on the American Samoa island of Ta'u. Up until November 2016, the island was dependent on diesel being shipped to it from the mainland. However, that ended when Musk installed over 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks.
However, Ta'u only has a population of 790, while Puerto Rico is home to 3.5 million people. While the technology that Musk is offering has no limit to scalability, the sheer number of solar panels and Tesla Powerpacks needed for the project, and the funding required, might prove to be a huge challenge right from the start.
In addition, with the people of Puerto Rico suffering without electricity, the project needs to start as soon as possible, which would place an additional strain on resources.
The challenges are there, but if Musk is able to pull this off, Puerto Rico will indeed be the flagship project of Tesla's solar power capabilities.