The sunny Caribbean would seem to be an ideal location for solar farms, but the devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is hurting the islands’ clean energy plans.
Although Puerto Rico is optimistic about replacing destroyed infrastructure with solar panels and storm-resistant microgrids, both come with a high price tag and distinct risks.
Solar fields are, by design, exposed significantly to the elements—unlike fossil-fuel-burning or nuclear plants or hydroelectric facilities, which are enclosed in resilient structures. And even when the fields are functioning fully as intended, energy-storage technology still isn’t sufficiently advanced to ensure that the power produced by solar farms is available even when the sun isn’t shining.
Although we’re a few lines of latitude north of the islands, the same concerns apply to solar development in New York. We too need massive battery capabilities that will keep the power up when the sun goes down in order to have a functioning grid. We’re also hardly immune to major storms, like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, that would likely lay waste to solar fields. Therefore, we have to anticipate significant investments in repair and replacement over the years.
Solar power is great for generating clean energy when the sun’s shining and the panels are intact—but we should all be aware that it’s going to take many years and much investment in crucial technological advances before solar’s ready to be a backbone for our very demanding grid.
Read more here: Storm-Ravaged Caribbean Is Eyeing Solar, But It Won’t Come Cheap