After watching Hurricane Maria devastate his native Puerto Rico, New York City-based architect Jonathan Marvel knew he needed to do anything he could to give back. He banded together with a group of friends to launch Resilient Power Puerto Rico, hoping to use the strength of renewable, solar energy to provide a steady source of electricity back to the island.
Just two weeks after the ambitious initiative was born, Marvel was back in Puerto Rico installing solar panels and batteries on the rooftops of community centers. The storm had wiped out power lines and had left people without electricity. Solar-powered energy would allow them to live and operate off the grid, without reliance on fossil fuel-burning power plants.
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Suddenly, these solar-powered community centers were able to provide spaces where people could refrigerate medication, filter water and gather together to rely on one another in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.
At last count, Marvel and Resilient Power Puerto Rico were able to bring solar power to 20 community centers across the island—helping over 100,000 people in the process.
Still, Marvel’s work is far from over. It took nearly a year before the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority restored power to most of the island’s residents, and, according to reports, the electricity system is in not in a much better state than it was before Maria wiped out the island.
Longer term, Marvel dreams of a day when Puerto Rico is able to shift to 100-percent renewable energy sources. He believes it is an achievable goal, and Resilient Power Puerto Rico is working to make it a reality.
“We can no longer rely on large fossil fuel burning power plants distributing energy and wires that are going to get blown down every year,” Marvel says. “We have all this power from the sun that needs to be harnessed.”