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January 17, 2018

How Solar Energy Can Contribute to Resilience and Sustainability in Puerto Rico, Examined at DDC Talks Lecture Series

Dan Leibel

Long Island City, NY – Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in October, leaving in its wake a destroyed power grid and months of blackout conditions for many of the island’s residents.

At the most recent installment of the NYC Department of Design and Construction’s “DDC Talks” lecture series, Walter Meyer and José Juan Terrasa-Soler of the Coastal Marine Resource Center (CMRC) described their efforts to deliver solar generators to the areas of Puerto Rico most in need of power under the group’s Resilient Power Puerto Rico (RPPR) effort. The introduction of the solar panels eliminated dependence on the national power grid and helped people power important devices such as communication tools and water filters.

José Juan Terrasa-Soler of the Coastal Marine Resource Center speaks to design and construction professionals at the January installment of DDC Talks

“Sustainable and renewable energy sources are important to the health of our City, and learning how they’ve been employed in disaster areas is helpful to the City’s long-term and emergency management planning, said DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio. “In support of the Mayor’s 80X50 initiative, DDC is proud to be part of the City’s response to the mounting problems that stem from global warming.”

The CMRC first experimented with this type of emergency response in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Rockaways in New York City. What started as an effort to install small solar grids around the area to help charge cell phones and small power tools became a City funded initiative called RISE, which allocated $3 million to install off-grid energy supplies to local businesses. In the event of another storm, these businesses are equipped to help their neighbors who otherwise depend on power from the national grid.

RPPR hopes to deliver 100 solar electric generators to the 78 municipalities that make up Puerto Rico, teaching community members how to install more solar kits so they can continue recovery efforts without the guidance of the organization.

“This is not about energy,” said Walter Meyer, co-founder of the Coastal Marine Resource Center (CMRC), which led a similar solar-based response on the Rockaway Peninsula after Hurricane Sandy. “This is a cultural change that’s happening. People want alternative energy solutions that are cleaner for the environment and don’t require dependence on a grid.”

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit