Hurricane Maria in 2017 showed us that rural towns with tenuous connections to power and telecommunications can find themselves in dire circumstances during natural disasters. In the mountains of Puerto Rico there are many such communities that have no connection to a water utility. Instead they rely on electrically pumped wells which are only as reliable as their power source. Poor telecommunications and internet connectivity are also common here and limit a community’s educational and economic potential.
In 2020 New Sun Road helped bring together a coalition to upgrade existing solar infrastructure in rural Puerto Rico to improve these communities’ connectivity and resilience. Microsoft Airband, Blue Planet Energy, Red Verde (VPNet), Por los Nostros, and New Sun Road came together to make improvements to local systems. These included advanced controls, energy storage, internet access and reliable power for critical services such as pumping well water and communications.
Communication is key in times of emergency, with this initiative we feel safer, knowing we have a nearby place with internet so we can contact our loved ones.
Jose R. Oyola, president of the Pedro Calixto community in Caguas.
Por Los Nuestros identified three communities — Caguas, Cidra, and Cayey, with over 250 homes — that had existing solar-powered water pumps and limited internet access. Blue Planet Energy provided a battery system to store excess solar power for nighttime use. New Sun Road installed Stellar Edge™ and Stellar Microgrid OS™, remote control and monitoring systems, which also provide WiFi hotspots for community internet. Microsoft Airband provided computers and funding for a trainer to teach residents basic digital literacy, such as how to use digital banking services or fill out social services forms online.