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Tesla helps restore power in Puerto Rico with energy technology

By
Sara Shayanian
About 85 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity, weeks after Hurricane Maria damaged the island's power grid. Photo by Kris Grogan/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI
About 85 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity, weeks after Hurricane Maria damaged the island's power grid. Photo by Kris Grogan/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 25 (UPI) -- As most of Puerto Rico remains without electricity, tech company Tesla has begun to make good on its promise to rebuild the island's energy grid after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria.

Tesla said Tuesday the "first of many solar and storage projects" had started on the U.S. territory. Its first accomplishment was restoring power to Hospital del Niño in San Juan.

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The facility is using a combination of solar cells and Tesla's Powerpack energy storage batteries, which generates energy from the sun's rays and stores power to provide during adverse weather conditions.

Tesla's work on the island began early this month after a Twitter exchange between Tesla chief Elon Musk, who donated $250,000 of his personal money to the recovery efforts, and Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello.

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Rossello replied to a tweet by Musk, saying Tesla could use Puerto Rico as a "flagship project" to "show the world the power and scaleability of Tesla Technologies."

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Tesla has also been shipping its own Powerpack battery storage to the territory and postponed an event in November to focus on assisting Puerto Rico.

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As 85 percent of the island remains without power, Puerto Rican officials say it could take up to six months before its power grid is fully repaired.

Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority has hired a Montana-based company, Whitefish Energy, to help restore power instead of reaching out to the American Public Power Association, which typically aids in disaster recovery efforts.

Lawmakers are questioning the decision to hire Whitefish, with some calling the deal "very fishy" and analysts saying the deal "didn't make a lot of sense."

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"This is one of the reasons people down here really hate PREPA -- they do business behind closed doors and it ends up costing a lot of money," Sergio Marxuach, policy director at the nonpartisan Center for a New Economy, told ABC News.

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