San Juan’s Hospital del Niño, one of Puerto Rico’s children’s hospitals, has had its electrical power restored with the help of solar panels and batteries supplied by solar panel manufacturer Tesla Inc. According to NPR, the children’s hospital solar panels are just one of many projects the manufacturer intends to bring to Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico on September 20, leaving behind terrible damage, no electricity, limited communications, and limited food and drinking water. Weeks later, the majority of Puerto Rico is still without power, businesses are struggling to recover, and citizens without running water are drinking from Superfund sites that have been reportedly marked non-toxic.
The severity of the destruction is what brought Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, to reach out to the island. On October 6, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello tweeted, “Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities.”
Solar panels are made using solar cells and metalworking, which has been an increasingly demanded skill with the growing popularity of green power. After using metalworking fluids, coolants, and lubricants which are vital to machining; configuring the actual solar cell panels; and working 24/7 to install the system on the hospital’s property, Tesla’s solar panels had the hospital’s power running again.
According to El Nuevo Dia, the new solar panel and battery system is currently providing the hospital with all the energy necessary to care for the facility’s 35 permanent child residents with chronic conditions. The facility will also be able to care for 3,000 other young patients, whether they are suffering from cold symptoms, which can last up to 14 days, the flu, or other temporary illnesses.
The head of the children’s hospital informed Nuevo Dia, when asked who would be paying for the system, that the solar panels and batteries were a donation as of now. However, once the energy crisis has ended and Puerto Rico is able to get back on its feet, Tesla has offered a deal with the hospital to make the system permanent.
For now, the new system is only a small step toward Puerto Rico’s recovery. Millions of people on the island are still relying on generators and a FBI investigation is now underway regarding the $300 million contract between Puerto Rico and a Montana electrical power company known as Whitefish.
Other tech companies have also been sending aid to Puerto Rico alongside Tesla. LET balloons have been deployed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as a part of its Project Loon to help the island regain phone and web connectivity. However, despite these small steps, only 25% of the island has power and millions of Puerto Ricans are struggling to find adequate medical care let alone food and water.
“We are dying here,” said San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “If we don’t get the food and the water into the people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”