Empowering Health in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s proximity to the equator provides the island with more direct sunlight than more northern regions, making it an ideal location for solar power.
In the days after Hurricane Maria’s Category 4-landfall in Puerto Rico in Sept. 2021, staff from the Hermanas Misioneras del Buen Pastor Clinic delivered aid to a pummeled island.
“They were on foot, marching to these really remote communities in the mountains, like kind of the first responders,” says Joe Kselman, the founder of Solar Village Project
Brother’s Brother Foundation has partnered with Solar Village Project to install solar arrays at three primary health centers in rural India. The latest project underway through the partnership will provide solar power to Hermanas Misioneras del Buen Pastor Clinic, a mental health clinic in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
Buen Pastor Clinic offers counseling services and child abuse prevention programs for a free or significantly reduced cost. It also hosts community blood drives and has become a key hub for disaster relief resilience and coordination.
But, as is the case for virtually all places across Puerto Rico’s 100-mile-long island, power at the clinic is unpredictable.
“The [electric] grid was never in great shape, and then Maria and Irma kind of just knocked it out. And the reality is that rebuilding it is a very technically complicated process and not one that’s being undertaken in a very successful and methodical way,” Kselman says.
Buen Pastor Clinic loses power for a few hours nearly every day of the week, making it difficult to provide consistent services.
Puerto Rico’s proximity to the equator provides the island with more direct sunlight than more northern regions, making it an ideal location for solar power. After Hurricane Maria left some Puerto Ricans without power for several months, many decided to switch to solar energy for more reliability. In addition to powering everyday appliances, solar panels also charge backup batteries that kick into gear when there’s not enough sunlight to power the solar panels. On their own, battery backups can provide energy for two to three days before needing to be recharged.
From a financial standpoint, the long-term benefits of solar power are significant. Commercial electricity in Puerto Rico costs 60% more than in does in rest of the United States. This, coupled with a median annual household income of $22,000, makes electricity nearly unaffordable in Puerto Rico. Over 40% of the island lives in poverty.
Solar power will allow Buen Pastor Clinic to extend its services and have a greater overall impact on the community. It will also save the clinic an additional three to four hundred dollars every month.
“In a place where poverty is such an issue, every dollar is really important,” Kselman says.