Led by the Solar Foundation, 20 solar companies and organizations have joined major charities in their quest to bring reliable electricity and clean water to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and on the Virgin Islands.
In September, Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean region, destroying large parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Latest estimations say that in Puerto Rico alone, the death toll may have risen to as many as 55 fatalities, although the inofficial number is believed to be as high as 500. Restoring the damage that has been caused may cost as much as 50 billion USD.
Promising alliance might finally bring hurricane relief
The country’s power grid was also a victim of Maria – it was destroyed in its entirety and could take months to rebuild. Various offers have been made and ideas have been toyed with in this context: Shortly after the hurricane, Tesla offered to provide large storage batteries to secure all energy that is generated from now on and helped restore power to a children’s hospital. In October, entrepreneur Elon Musk suggested he could restore the grid based upon solar alone. The latest development and aim to help is, however, at this point the most promising one and a very big step towards a better future for the inhabitants of both countries.
Solar Saves Lives: Cooperation between solar companies and charities
This latest hurricane relief effort is lead by the Solar Foundation and brings together 20 solar companies and organizations as well as some major charities: the Clinton Foundation, Operation Blessing, Direct Relief and J/P HRO. The alliance is called Solar Saves Lives and collects donations from its members, among them successful solar companies like Sunrun, BayWa r.e. Solar Systems and the SunSpec Alliance.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has applauded the idea: „The solar equipment donated through this effort will save lives by aiding recovery efforts, providing power for people in remote areas, and solarizing critically needed services like refrigeration and medical care,“ he said.
Solar equipment donated by participating companies
The donations are mainly not of the monetary, but of a more hands-on type: The companies will be supplying portable solar gear like lanterns and cell chargers and larger equipment such as solar refrigeration units, solar water purification units, and equipment for large-scale installations. Installation partners in Puerto Rico are expected to help on site.
Priorities have already been clearly set: two food markets in San Juan and 62 rural medical clinics have been determined as urgent recipients of the donations. Local officials and relief organizations are helping with identifying the specific needs of different recipients, thus ensuring that the donations will help as best possible.
Shipping could become major obstacle
However, before this help reaches the victims, shipping to the affected areas has to be organized and could become a major obstacle due to the destroyed infrastructure. Solar Saves Lives says that they will work with partners to ensure a smooth process.
But the initiative is not limited to the solar industry: the new alliance also accepts donations from the public. These can be made through its website, SolarSavesLives.org, where more information on the project is provided.