Solar energy is what is keeping one farm from devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Flower grower Hector Santiago’s solar panels are powering his 40-acre nursery in Puerto Rico while his competition waited for diesel to restart their generators.
“Everybody told me I was crazy because it was so expensive. Now I have power and they don‘t,” says Santiago in a Rueters interview.
Santiago’s $300,000 he invested in 244 solar panels six years ago are working on his Barranquitas farm despite the destruction of Puerto Rican electric grid.
Although the nursery is thriving given the conditions, the damage during the storm was not insignificant. Many plants were destroyed and the roofs of some greenhouses blew off.
The Future of Solar Energy in Puerto Rico
Santiago hopes that Puerto Rico will rely more on solar power and other renewable energies in the future. His success story could drive more individuals and businesses to invest in solar power.
Santiago’s business requires a high amount of energy. From May through August, he lights his greenhouses with a total of 2,520 electric bulbs from 10 pm to 2 am to stimulate plant growth.
Until Hurricane Maria, Santiago sold excess electricity generated by his six by three foot wide panels back to Puerto Rico’s now-defunct grid. In the storm, however, 25% of the panels were damaged by flying debris.
Still, he said, that was enough to keep the power on, and the nursery did not “have to worry about trees falling on the power lines.”