Musk Says Tesla Could Scale Up Powerpack/Solar To Untie Puerto Rico From Grid, Talks Could Soon Be Underway

2 months ago by Eric Loveday 57

Puerto Rico

Following tragedy in Puerto Rico, the electric grid has been called into question.

In steps Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

When asked if Musk could go in and rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric system with Power Packs and solar, Musk responded with one of those new, longer Tweets:

Musk’s response was met with positive vibe. Even Ricardo Rosello, the Governor of Puerto Rico & President of the New Progressive Party, chimed in:

Rosello then Tweeted again this morning:

And Musk responded:

If Tesla takes on this task, there’s no doubt it will become among the largest such installations in the world. And it will surely pave the way for other islands to follow.

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57 responses to "Musk Says Tesla Could Scale Up Powerpack/Solar To Untie Puerto Rico From Grid, Talks Could Soon Be Underway"

  1. Chester Koenig says:

    That’d be wonderful!

  2. pjwood1 says:

    Realistically, Puerto Rico can better distribute its grid, but at 4TWh of consumption going entirely PV-battery, like Kauai or American Somoa, isn’t likely (3,000-6,000 acres of panels?).

    EIA notes $.20/KWh rates, only half from fuel oil (not all). Then, they’re big enough that their rates can be lower on 34% service from cheap natural gas. So, the economics aren’t quite as easy to beat as 25-30+ cent rates.

    Still, even as part of the solution solar-battery from Tesla could be fun to watch. Whose gonna lend?

    1. pjwood1 says:

      ..bad math. @3acres per 1MW STC, and @20% conversion factor, you’d need closer to 60,000 acres to get up to 4TWh. No?
      https://www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=RQ

      1. pjwood1 says:

        Ooops, scratch that – 6,000 acres about work. 6000/3=2GW. 2GW@20%CF=400. 400X352X24 = ~3.5TWh Sorry for the bandwidth.

      2. TM says:

        Your links says 20 TWh, not 4. The US is 4000 TWh per year. That is only 1/200th of the US. While smaller, it is quite a lot.

        1. pjwood1 says:

          Thanks, good catch. I read the “4,103 billion kWh”, as PR’s 4,103 mn kWh. -Too many commas in electric math. πŸ˜‰

          The number doubles-down on the point. 20TWh beats a number of states.

          1. Mark.ca says:

            Islands don’t get cheap nat gas or any other fossil fuel for that matter.

            1. pjwood1 says:

              Yeah, but now looking deeper, PR can unload LNG. Japan’s average fell in half (~$5/mmbtu), since the U.S. began exporting natural gas this way. Some of it does (or will?) come all the way from Cove Point (Dominion’s east coast facility). So, on cost that means PR may be able to get it cheaper?

              There’s a scale, where >$1bn dollar LNG facilities begin to make sense. The other 47% (EIA), that is petrol fired, is where PV-battery still has more room to work.

              1. fasterthanonecanimagine says:

                Doesn’t the Jones Act prevent Puerto Rico from importing LNG and other fuel at an acceptable price? Because of the U.S. transportation monopoly Puerto Rico is an expensive location. Might therefore be well positioned as a showcase for the Musk/Tesla solution. If the U.N.O. carries some of the cost ….

                1. Tim Miser says:

                  The Jones act only limits the carrier of the natural gas can’t be transported from the US to another US location (or territory) by a foreign carrier as in airline or ocean liner. Nothing to do with imports from another country.

                  1. Ron M says:

                    The Jones Act prevents foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargo between the US mainland and certain noncontiguous parts of the US, such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam. Foreign ships inbound with goods cannot stop at any of these four locations, offload goods, load mainland-bound goods, and continue to US mainland ports, although ships can offload cargo and proceed to the US mainland without picking up any additional cargo intended for delivery to another US location. Usually, they proceed directly to US mainland ports, where distributors break bulk and then send goods to US places off the mainland by US-flagged ships.
                    Arizona Sen. John McCain called it “an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made US industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers.” Nevertheless, Congress has consistently supported the Jones Act as vital to national security.
                    Some critics of the Jones Act have alleged that the Jones Act makes shipping between US ports so expensive that some Hawaiian ranchers fly cattle to the mainland rather than having them loaded and shipped on boats.
                    It has been argued that modification of the Jones Act to allow U.S. companies to purchase foreign-built ships could reduce vehicle traffic on coastal highways, with shipping being considerably more efficient, safer and less polluting than transporting the same cargo by truck.

                    1. BenG says:

                      Interesting!

                      Repeal the Jones Act!

                    2. Dav8or says:

                      It is in our national interest. Without it, American ship building would die altogether. This would mean that it would become very, very difficult to build our own warships. We would become even more dependent on foreign countries and foreign contractors to build our future navies.

                      If we want to keep the ability to build our own warships here, we need to preserve our pathetically small ship building industry where it is. Globalism is a bitch. Makes some of us rich on one hand, but destroys our country on the other. I guess at some point we might as well work out our surrender terms to China now before anybody has to needlessly die.

                2. Alan Drake says:

                  Trinidad exports LNG. Closer than Louisiana LNG. LNG from Trinidad to PR can go in foreign ships unlike LNG from Louisiana or Texas.

  3. (βŒβ– _β– ) Trollnonymous says:

    Is EM going to build hurricane proof solar panels????

    Power packs best be in a rebar reinforced concrete bunker too.
    πŸ™‚

    1. ffbj says:

      Yeah, like the del Morro fortress pictured above. They will probably want a debris fences and inflatable flood barriers.

    2. Mark.ca says:

      Looks like most of the panels survived the storm on this farm…

      1. islandboy says:

        Being an island boy myself, I am intensely interested in the survive-ability of solar PV arrays in this region. I see these storms as learning experiences for the rest of us. I have searched for before and after photos of as much arrays as I could find and there is definitely a wide range of outcomes for arrays that all experienced similar wind speeds.

        After Irma, the array near the airport in Anguilla was a total loss, while the one on Richard Branson’s Necker islands looks relatively unscathed. Even within the island of Puerto Rico there was a huge difference in outcomes after Maria. There definitely needs to be an examination and comparison of the arrays and farms that survived versus those that were badly damaged.

      2. unlucky says:

        Most isn’t enough. I look at that picture and the losses look high enough that if we saw this every few years it would ruin the chance of financial payback on those installations. The labor costs of fixing part of the array is higher than the per-panel cost when putting them in the first time and so even 10% damage like that could be a killer.

        1. Mark.ca says:

          I agree that this hits the payoff time badly. Obviously the danger here is hurricanes and with these you get a few days of warning and you can prepare. On residential installs the panels are plugin these days and can be easily taken down in minutes.something similar could be implemented for solar farms and save them from damage.

        2. BenG says:

          Maria hitting Puerto Rico is not an ‘every few years’ type event. Maybe every 50 years.

          Still, I think you can build for survivability in 140 mile winds, which would have protected most of the island.

          1. Bonaire says:

            Inverters need to be replaced in the 15-20 year time frame anyway. So, maintenance even if modules live past 20 years requires some costly repairs. Plus, modules lose output capability every year, as do battery subsystems. Looks great in the beginning but down the road, the next-administration on the island has to keep re-paying for new replacement parts. Think “Printer Ink” ongoing. Gets worse when arrays are wiped out and you were relying on it. It is easier to restart or replace a large barged-in generator than re-lay 5000 acres of solar. Do some of both.

  4. realistic says:

    “Musk Says Tesla Could Scale Up Powerpack/Solar To Untie Puerto Rico From Grid”

    Exactly which “grid” is PR “tied to”?

  5. Get Real says:

    PR has its own internal grid.

    Musk is talking about using solar pv/wind, etc. plus batteries/other storage to start moving towards a distributed grid/micro grid because its much more survivable and away from the PR’s conventional grid that gets nuked every 10 years or so from storms:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_generation

    But hey, any EE worth their salt should already know what this is.

    1. realistic says:

      The web site is obligated to praise Musk (peace be unto him), so a title that implies Musk (pbuh) can help PR to “untie” the entire island from a “grid” makes sense to the faithful.

      As a freelancer in the “gig” economy, my main source of work these days is in telecom power, and virtually all of it is in developing economies (mostly Africa). I don’t spend a lot of time on location, but have been involved in plenty of distributed power installations, mostly -48vdc with combined PV, battery and DG. The idea that this can all be done smoothly and gracefully in poorly-functioning communities is fantasy.

      I’m very familiar with the PR power problems, having worked with a company who manufactured there. The US Gov’t has directly subsidized manufacturing operations in PR for decades through bond backing and wage guarantees. I have witnessed (and sadly participated in) the movement of hundreds of stateside jobs to the Territory. Huge mistake: between transport, energy cost, and quality issues PR rarely works out well for manufacture.

      While hardly Africa or Pakistan, governance of island localities is quite corrupt. We installed backup power generation and an additional water purification system to allow quicker recovery than the lame local utilities and government could muster. After Olga (just a TS but plenty of rain) we set up water bottle filling and temporary laundry facilities in trailers. Local “authorities” couldn’t find their butts with both hands and a map.

      This is not Australia. The Musk (pbuh) “talks” will never mean a thing.

      1. KumarP says:

        You sure spent a lot of words saying, “Harumph!”

        1. mevp says:

          He may sound cranky, but his experience working on islands is the same as mine. It’s shocking how inept and a bit corrupt most islands become. I’m not sure why, but it’s a real thing.

          1. Dav8or says:

            It’s no different than urban inner cities here stateside. Perpetual generations of people living near, or in poverty leads to a feeling of entitlement, that they are “owed” something. If they don’t get big government hand outs, then they will take their own however they can.

            The feeling is, every man for themselves, money is paramount, your concern only exists as far as friends and family and some of those are suspect. The concept of the “United States of America” is a joke and means little.

            Unfortunately, or President’s idiotic visit to Puerto Rico and our country’s ignorance and lack of concern for it’s territories just reinforces these beliefs. There is the United States of America and then there is the poor people that live inside the United States of America. Two very different places.

      2. Nick says:

        Yea! Get off my lawn!

      3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        @realistic:

        Thank you very much for taking the time to write up that report/analysis.

        When the voice of experience speaks to something so central to the discussion here, then the peanut gallery (I’m looking at you, KumarP) should pipe down and listen.

      4. zll says:

        All hail Elon Musk (blessed be his name)!

  6. georgeS says:

    Wow think of all the Samsung batteries that Tesla could sell:)

  7. DJ says:

    While I don’t think them having PV and battery storage is a bad idea this article seems to suggest that PR homes and businesses won’t be tied in to some grid.

    Regardless of where the power comes from unless it is truly distributed at each and every home/business the hurricane and it’s damage would have resulted in a similar catastrophe.

    Realistically traditional power plants are better equipped to handle hurricanes than huge fields of solar panels. With PRs transmission and distribution lines being obliterated as well had their been some big solar plant (that would have been destroyed) and even regionally distributed power packs which is likely what they would have done the result would be very similar. Heck, it could even be more dangerous if they’ve got live current coming through the wires.

    This and they can’t even fill Powerwall orders in a timely manner. Exactly how are they going to supply such a project and ya who is gonna lend PR the $ to do this.

  8. vdiv says:

    What about tidal and offshore wind?

    1. (βŒβ– _β– ) Trollnonymous says:

      I was going to post about wind energy but then I thought this whole scenario is because of all that wind…..lol

      Maybe if the turbines can duck and hide before the hurricane comes they’ll be safe???
      Retractable turbines?

      1. pjwood1 says:

        I’m sure there are other images, but a frame within a post-storm CNN video showed straight windmill towers and major rotor destruction (like one, in three, blades intact).

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Making a wind turbine with a mast that can be folded flat in case of high wind is obviously not impossible, but how much would that add to the cost? Would it be cost-effective?

        It’s hard to do an effective cost/benefit analysis without knowing how frequently PR is going to be facing storms like this. Hurricane specialists have said that global warming makes hurricanes more destructive, but slightly less frequent. “Less frequent” certainly doesn’t look like what happened this year! Is the 2017 parade of hurricanes something that is extremely unlikely to ever occur again? Or does it portend similar “parades” in the near future? Was this year’s parade a freak occurrence, or are hurricane specialists be wrong about decreased frequency?

  9. MM says:

    The tough engineering questions will dwarf in comparison to the political agenda of the trump administration. This will probably be another completely wasted opportunity. I hope I’m wrong.

  10. Get Real says:

    Well, because of the massive negative consequences of global warming (which unfortunately too many fools keep denying or obfuscating to everyone’s detriment), these kinds of disasters will keep accelerating and everyone pays for it through taxes/debt and higher insurance costs.

    Pretty simple really:
    Pay now or pay a lot more later and over and over (and over) again.

    With the climate denying oiligarchy Trumpster and his useful idiots running the country into the ground I don’t expect any progress or anything positive here.

    But I hold out hope that in the future they will be held accountable for their actions and non-science denying, smarter people will start making the mostly right, (scratch that), correct choices.

  11. unlucky says:

    I’m not sure why anyone thinks separating customers from the grid would be a win. If you set up a customer with a microgrid sized for their current use it means they cannot grow their use without large capital outlay. In other words, they cannot get an EV.

    And this is all before we talk about how expensive a year-round self-sustaining system would be for a house. It would be less affordable there due to their standard of living than on the US mainland. And you don’t see this taking off on the US mainland due to the costs.

    Resist Musk hype. Come on insideevs, you know you can do it. Remember? No plug, no story?

    1. Get Real says:

      I will resist your hype and dodging of the issue.

      About every 10 years (and sure to accelerate with global warming) PR has its grid destroyed by storms and it has to be rebuilt everytime.

      That costs a lot of money and will continue to do so.

      It would be cheaper in the longer term to setup more survivable microgrids that can island themselves then to keep rebuilding the grid over and over.

      And since solar PV costs keep going down and are the cheapest way to generate electricity all that needs to be solved is the storage issue in which battery storage can play a role.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        No, it would be cheaper in the long run to build a centralized power grid using nuclear power, and buried power lines which will survive a hurricane. I think Unlucky has a valid point about local/neighborhood distributed power making it more difficult, and more costly, to provide supply for increased demand in a given neighborhood.

        I’d like to see a cost analysis, but common sense suggests both the economy of scale and the need for flexibility favor large electrical grids, not micro-grids.

        It’s too bad that new, failsafe nuclear power systems, such as NuScale’s SMR (Small Modular Reactor) system, are still in development. For long-term planning, that would be the best solution for PR; nuclear power plants can be far more easily built to withstand a hurricane than solar farms and wind farms!

        It’s also too bad that public hysteria over “RADIATION!!”, hysteria strongly promoted by the traditional news media, results in so much activism and NIMBYism, blocking the building of new and much safer nuclear power plants. πŸ˜₯

        1. Ron M says:

          Your still taking about a nuclear power plant. A 1,000 MW unit would cost at least 8 billion dollars. Take years just to get designed and another 10 years for construction to be completed. Two Units #3 and # 4 at V.C.Summer in South Carolina and two more units at Vogel in Georgia have halted construction and caused Westinghouse, Stone and Webster to file for bankruptcy and Toshiba to be close already loosing 7 billion dollars and forced to sell there chip building subsidiary. The promise was these new advanced nuclear plants would be cheaper and safer.

  12. Ron M says:

    A combination of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and Fuel Cell power plants. Fuel Cell Energy from Connecticut can provide power from waste water treatment plants. All of these systems combined could provide a more reliable cheaper distributed grid.
    Having Musk providing his knowledge and insight would be incredibly valuable.

  13. wavelet says:

    Silly topic at this point in time.
    Who would finance such a project? PR has lower per capita GNP than any state (~$28K/yr). Currently, only 2% of its electricity generation is renewable. Forget the batteries, for a large renewable-based island grid they’d need a _huge_ investment in utility scale wind & solar before anything else. Tesla can’t help with that; PR’s economy is completely in the dumps since they lost the taxation benefits they had about a decade ago: There’s no RoI in making long-term large investments in the local economy.

    And Hawaii isn’t a good comparison… They have hydro and geothermal sources, almost twice the GDP, much higher fuel costs due to very long shipping distances, so it makes much more economic sense to switch to renewables & EV cars.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      Solar City has leases, don’t they?

      Elon will just sell the debt to Wall Street to finance it.

      Better do it before interest rate is up!

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Sure, sell bonds to finance building a state of the art, renewable, flexible, distributed power “smart grid” on an island that’s so poor it can’t even afford to bury power lines to protect them from hurricanes.

        What could possibly go wrong there? πŸ™„

    2. Ron M says:

      The gird is laying on the ground now so someone is going to have to bad to get PR up and running again. I would imagine most of the transformers and much of the existing electrical equipment is shot. So if your going to rebuild makes sense to do it right.

  14. BenG says:

    Tesla products can help Puerto Rico (PR). Tesla products can’t remotely rebuild the PRan grid by themselves.

    If you are a wealthy property owner in PR, a Tesla home would be very sweet right now.

    I think we can build to withstand 140 mph wind. That would have been enough for most sites in PR.

  15. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    While it’s nice to dream, this needs a reality check:

    One of the reasons why Puerto Rico’s power grid was so completely destroyed by the hurricane — perhaps the primary reason — is because the island is too poor to bury its power lines. They were all up on poles, where the wind could tear them away.

    Rebuilding PR’s power grid using wind & solar plus substantial battery backup would make it even more expensive than a normal power grid with buried power lines.

    PR is going to have enough problems as it is getting the funds to rebuild any sort of working power grid to cover the island. The more expensive option using significant numbers of solar panels and Tesla PowerPacks is almost certainly not gonna happen unless multiple billionaires step in and make very substantial donations to the cause.

    1. Ron m says:

      Well they do have a 10% unemployment rate but I read that the mainland may experience pharmaceutical drug problems because many drugs are made in Puerto Rico and som only in Puerto Rico.Apparently pharmaceutical companies employee 100,000 people in Puerto Rico.

    2. Alan Drake says:

      Buried power lines are an expensive luxury. They increase maintenance. Metal & concrete poles with extra steel in the conductors can withstand high winds. Puerto Rico had few of those.

  16. Alan Drake says:

    Puerto Rico, Per NREL, has 840 MW of wind potential but only 120 MW Installed. This is sea breeze wind which peaks around dawn & sunset, an ideal match with solar power & reducing battery storage required.

  17. Jack Rickard says:

    I don’t think anything will come of this. The PR governor is clearly pushing hard on the “opportunity” Tesla has to showcase their technology. What this means to the unwashed is “We would love to have a modern Solar electric system, but of course we can’t afford any part of it. But if you want to donate one, we would be happy to allow that.”

    Picture having an entire state on welfare, complete with corrupt alt-left libtard administrators. Do nothing for themselves, and insistently demand that someone do something for them. Their debt is already so high they are essentially bankrupt. Picture Flint MIchigan on steroids.

    1. Ron M says:

      All of Puerto Rico isn’t all on welfare there are 100,000 people employed in the pharmaceutical industry I would imagine good paying jobs. If all those companies invested in roof and ground top solar Plus wind. The airports and the companies the airlines that use the airports. Shopping centers, hotels, Remember tourism is a big industry in Puerto Rico.
      Thinkers find solutions Musk can do it and he will be able to get people on board.

      1. Bonaire says:

        It is a poor title to “grab eyeballs”. PR is not connected to the US grid. It is self-contained.

  18. Randy Bryan says:

    As mentioned above, the distribution grid in Puerto Rico was destroyed, not the generating plants. Is it crazy for PR to depend on fuel when sun and wind are so abundant? I think so. So, I applaud Mr Musk’s efforts to bring substantial clean generating capacity to PR. But, Who’s going to rebuild the grid? Is rebuilding distribution every 10 years or so less expensive than burying the lines underground? I hope they choose right.

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