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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/22/18

Puerto Rico Goes Back Door to Solartopia and the Corporate Media Blacks It Out

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Puerto Rico has made history by becoming -- briefly -- the largest US territory or state to be powered almost entirely by renewable energy.

The corporate media has done all it can to black the story out.

The rising grassroots movement to totally rebuild Puerto Rico's electric supply system with renewable energy and locally owned micro-grids poses a serious threat to the centralized, fossil-based corporate elite.

But two hurricanes and two human-error blackouts have opened the door to systemic change.

Here's how:

Last September, Hurricane Irma blew through the Caribbean, passing over enough of Puerto Rico to plunge tens of thousands of people into darkness. Many of them are still without power.

Then Hurricane Maria shredded the island's electric grid and blacked out its 3.4 million residents virtually in toto.

The island had two large wind farms, one of which was severely damaged. The other survived, but had no grid through which to distribute its electricity.

Some solar arrays on the island were also severely damaged.

But at a farm in Barranquitas owned by Hector Santiago, 244 solar panels kept some 2,500 light bulbs alight to maximize greenhouse plant growth. Much to the derision of his neighbors, Santiago had invested some $300,000 in the solar array. Small gas and kerosene-fired generators kicked back up around the island. But Santiago's solar array may well have been its biggest operating power station.

Over the following months, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority tried to restore its rickety poles and wires, plus its network of obsolete gas and oil plants ... and the ancient coal plant that burns ore from Colombia.

Along the way, PREPA's director was fired, and Governor Ricardo Antonio "Ricky" Rossell├â │ Nevares has campaigned to privatize the utility, a move strongly opposed by democracy activists.

On April 8, as PREPA was bringing the island back up to near-total power, restoration workers felled a tree onto live transmission wires, knocking out power to some 850,000 customers.

Ten days later, PREPA proudly announced that it had restored power to 95.8 percent of the island's population. Some 62,000 customers were still in the dark. But PREPA was proud that each of the territory's 78 municipalities had at least some power.

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Harvey is a lifelong activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, election protection, social justice, grass-roots politics and natural healing, personal and planetary.He hosts "California Solartopia" at KPFK-Pacifica and "Green Power & Wellness" (more...)

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