By Daniel Ware
In 2017, the disastrous Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused thousands of deaths, destroyed homes and businesses and left thousands homeless in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Barbuda, and many other island nations in the Caribbean. The hurricanes also exposed a massive problem regarding the resiliency of the electrical grids that are relied upon to keep the power running on these small and isolated islands.
Many parts of the Caribbean were without sustained power for months following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, despite aid and assistance coming from the governments and many energy providers who sent experts and equipment to bring power back on line.
Enhancing and improving energy resilience throughout the Caribbean
Earlier this month, Sandia and the Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a two-day Advancing Caribbean Energy Resilience (ACER) workshop at the Universidad Ana G. Mendez Gurabo Campus in Puerto Rico, where researchers, engineers, policy makers, and utility representatives met to create dialogue on how to enhance and improve energy resilience throughout the Caribbean.
Led by Sandia, the workshop included speakers from the DOE, the Organization of American States, Caribbean Community, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, professors from the Universidad de Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, energy providers, and regional stakeholders.
At the workshop, approximately 50 participants, stakeholders and experts from 15 countries across the region learned about the tools and methodologies to address energy resilience through the application of microgrids.
Developing innovative infrastructure solutions
The workshop showcased design tools and methods that have been developed by the DOE and its National Laboratories, such as Sandia’s Microgrid Design Toolkit. The workshop shared best practices applicable to island electric grids, which have been developed and disseminated through DOE’s Energy Transitions Initiative.
Participants also learned about the governance, institutional, and financial considerations necessary to successfully develop strategies to ensure resilient electric supply to critical infrastructure.
As a part of the workshop, participants visited the El Coqui community and met with leaders there who are working on energy resilience solutions.
“Presentations at the workshop gave participants an idea of how microgrids and energy resiliency can benefit their countries and communities,” said Matt Lave, who conducts distributed systems integration research at Sandia. “While the workshop focused on the technical and regulatory aspects of microgrid development we felt it was important for the participants to understand the community motivation by interacting with those residents and leaders who are currently developing energy resilience solutions.”
The ACER Initiative’s goal is to continue to partner with stakeholders in the Caribbean region to advance energy resilience.