For Two Power Grid Experts, Hurricane Maria Became a Huge Experiment

In exploration, in some cases the investigator gets section of the experiment. That is just what occurred to Efraín O’Neill-Carrillo and Agustín Irizarry-Rivera, the two professors of electrical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, when Hurricane Maria strike Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017. Along with every other resident of the island, they missing electrical power in an islandwide blackout that lasted for months.

The two have studied Puerto Rico’s fragile electrical power infrastructure for approximately two many years and, looking at the island’s spot in a hurricane zone, experienced been proposing means to make it more resilient.

They also exercise what they preach. Again in 2008, O’Neill-Carrillo outfitted his residence with a rooftop photovoltaic program and a five.4-kilowatt-hour battery bank that could work independently of the primary grid. He was on a company journey when Maria struck, but he apprehensive a bit considerably less figuring out that his spouse and children would have electrical power.

Irizarry-Rivera [top] wasn’t so blessed. His residence in San Germán also experienced solar panels. “But it was a grid-tied program,” he says, “so of course it wasn’t doing the job.” It didn’t have storage or the essential command electronics to enable his household to attract electrical power right from the solar panels, he points out.

“I estimated I would not get [grid] electrical power until eventually March,” Irizarry-Rivera says. “It came back again in February, so I wasn’t also far off.” In the meantime, he spent more than a thirty day period attaining and putting in batteries, cost controllers, and a new stand-alone inverter. His spouse and children then relied solely on solar electrical power for one hundred and one days, until eventually grid electrical power was restored.

In “How to Harden Puerto Rico’s Grid Versus Hurricanes,” the two engineers describe how Puerto Rico could gain from neighborhood microgrids created up of identical tiny PV methods. The sum of electrical power they create would not meet up with the common Puerto Rican household’s typical need. But, Irizarry-Rivera factors out, you speedily learn to get by with considerably less.

“We acquired a ton of factors completed with 4 kilowatt-hrs a day,” he says of his personal household. “We experienced lighting and our personalized electronics doing the job, we could wash our apparel, run our refrigerator. Every thing else is just luxuries and conveniences.”

This posting seems in the November 2019 print difficulty as “After Maria.”