Musk says Tesla can help fix Puerto Rico’s power grid

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - AMERICA’S MARKETS - Nathan Bomey

Bil­lion­aire in­no­va­tor Elon Musk is pledg­ing to meet with Puerto Rico’s gover­nor to dis­cuss how he could help rebuild the is­land’s ru­ined elec­tri­cal grid with re­li­able re­new­able en­ergy.

After Hur­ri­cane Maria de­stroyed the U.S. ter­ri­tory’s elec­tric­ity dis­tri­bu­tion net­work, leav­ing mil­lions of res­i­dents with­out power for months, the Tesla CEO said on Twit­ter his com­pany could in­ter­vene.

Tesla’s strat­egy in­volves pair­ing large bat­ter­ies with so­lar pan­els and so­lar roof tiles, pro­vid­ing an off-the-grid en­ergy so­lu­tion that keeps the lights on with­out the help of fos­sil fu­els. The com­pany’s So­larCity di­vi­sion han­dles the in­stal­la­tion and sales.

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller is­lands around the world, but there is no scal­a­bil­ity limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk said Wed­nes­day in a tweet. “Such a de­ci­sion would be in the hands of the PR govt ... any com­mer­cial stake­hold­ers and, most im­por­tantly, the peo­ple of PR.”

Musk’s sug­ges­tion drew the at­ten­tion of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Ros­sello. “Let’s talk,” Ros­sello re­sponded. “Do you want to show the world the power and scal­a­bil­ity of your #Tes­laTech­nolo­gies? PR could be that flag­ship project.”

“I would be happy to talk,” Musk replied Friday. “Hope­fully, Tesla can be help­ful.”

The ex­change comes amid tremen­dous un­cer­tainty over how to re­store the Puerto Ri­can grid, which was al­ready di­lap­i­dated and bank­rupt be­fore Maria.

Pun­dits have sug­gested that Maria’s de­struc­tion para­dox­i­cally rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity for Puerto Rico to reimag­ine its un­re­li­able and pol­lut­ing elec­tri­cal in­fras­truc­ture. In 2016, Puerto Rico burned oil to gen­er­ate 47% of its elec­tric­ity, com­pared to only 0.6% for the en­tire U.S., ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The is­land got only 2% of its elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources, com­pared to 14.9% for the whole U.S.

Since Maria wiped out the is­land’s power dis­tri­bu­tion net­work, hos­pi­tals and drug man­u­fac­tur­ing plants have been op­er­at­ing on gen­er­a­tor power.

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Gov. Ros­sello says it could cost up to $90 bil­lion to rebuild Puerto Rico.

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