As of April 4, it has been 196 days and counting since Hurricane Maria knocked out power in Puerto Rico.
Six months after the treacherous hurricane slammed into the island, nearly 200,000 residents, or 16% of the island, remains without power. Unfortunately, the efforts to restore power to the island territory have faced delay after delay, including an explosion at a major power station in February.
Tired of waiting, thousands of Puerto Ricans have relocated to cities in Florida and New York, and many say they will never go back. Stateside, 63% of people have moved to a new community at least once, while only 37% of people have never left their hometown. However, the current migration from Puerto Rico to Florida and New York is breaking records.
“We are Americans, and the aid has not arrived as it should,” said Michelle Torres, one of the many Puerto Ricans who have relocated to shelters in New York told NBC News.
So why is it taking so long to help restore electricity?
Why Doesn’t Puerto Rico Have Power Yet?
There are many reasons it has taken so long to restore power to Puerto Rico, and many people believe the federal government isn’t showing enough urgency to address the situation. However, the electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico is old, which has delayed relief efforts.
On the ground, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are assisting relief efforts. FEMA reports that before the storm there were 1.47 million electric meters of power in Puerto Rico. Six months later, 1.39 million meters are active, which means total capacity is close to pre-storm levels.
However, the underlying power grid is still in ruins. The majority of the island is actually receiving electricity from one of three 25 megawatt generators installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Who Else Is Helping Restore Power to the Island?
Nonprofits, utility companies, celebrities, and ordinary Americans have rallied to help the island recover. Like many Americans, Artist Akon wanted to step up for the cause. The philanthropist proposed his bid to restore power to Puerto Rico, just as he did with many countries in Africa, but it was turned down by the U.S. government.
Akon’s project, Akon Lighting Africa, brought electricity to at least 14 countries in Africa using multiple modes of solar energy. This project was wildly successful, and he wanted to try his luck in Puerto Rico.
The artist told the Huffington Post, “We actually presented a program for Puerto Rico and we got rejected. We have the solution for Puerto Rico, clearly. We would’ve had power up in less than 30 days and they rejected us.”
Unfortunately for millions of Puerto Ricans, the recovery from Hurricane Maria is going very slowly. There was another major power shut down that occurred on March 1, according to The Colombian Chronicle, that affected more than 970,000 residents. It is unclear what caused the shutdown, but one thing is clear, something needs to be done. There have been many power companies to come through the island and have proven themselves to be unreliable, so the people of Puerto Rico are deciding to take matters into their own hands.
Solar power is now being seriously considered, even by Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan. As of the middle of 2017, the United States had a total solar power capacity of 47.1 GW, which is enough energy to power roughly 9.1 million homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar power could make a huge difference for the island, especially since their power grid continues to fail.
Tesla, the automotive company, agrees. They have been donating solar powered supplies to Puerto Rico in efforts to relieve those still without power. Battery packs have helped stabilize solar panels for many residents. An energy company, New Energy, is now looking for investors for a new solar micro-grid that could potentially provide power to the island, even when the main power grid experiences outages.