With seasonal variations in output of only around 30% Puerto Rico is at an ideal latitude for solar power, and despite generally low capacity factors (caused by cloudiness) it can be argued that if solar doesn’t work there it won’t work anywhere. And as the results of this post show 100% solar generation can in fact be made to work in Puerto Rico – but only by installing enormously costly amounts of battery storage. The island could be repowered with gas for a small fraction of the cost. (Inset: Average Puerto Rico annual solar radiation.)
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island with an area of 9,000 square kilometers, a population of 3.4 million and a nominal per-capita income of $29,600, about the same as Italy. It is an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S (more details on what this means here). The island has historically generated almost all of its electricity from fossil fuels, with 47% coming from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and only 2% from renewable energy in 2016.
Since Puerto Rico’s electricity infrastructure was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria it has been proposed that the island should take the opportunity to abandon fossil fuel generation and convert entirely to solar. Leading the charge, as usual, is Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has already shipped a small number of storage batteries to Puerto Rico but doesn’t want to stop there: From the BBC
Elon Musk says he can rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with solar: The company says it has powered small islands, such as Ta’u in American Samoa. There, it installed a solar grid which can power the entire island and store enough electricity for three days without any sun. “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,” Mr Musk tweeted.
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