After Hurricane Maria, it was reported that the scarcity of generators and gasoline exacerbated the effects of the energy outage. After the storm, the price of gasoline skyrocketed and lines to purchase gasoline were extremely long (sometimes exceeding 20 hour wait times) because there was a limited amount of fuel and a high demand. [1] Following the hurricane, 34% of the island’s gas stations were closed, and less than 5% of households had power. [2] By using a renewable resource, people would have increased access to a reliable source of energy to power small items that are imperative, such as medical devices, computers, and cell phones. While these generators are unlikely to be able to power full households, they can be effectively used to power these smaller devices and keep people powered and connected post-disaster. [3]

Figure 1: A long line of cars can be seen waiting for gasoline after Hurricane Maria.

Solar-Powered Generators

The citizens of Puerto Rico can have access to power quickly after a storm through small solar-powered generators.  Generators like the KaliPAK 601 (see Figure 1 below) can be sold at unit price (with little or no markup) to those who need one. The current price of the KaliPAK in particular is $365.55, but if the government was able to distribute a subsidized solar powered generator using the KaliPAK product as a model and charging no markup, the price would drop significantly because there would be no need to make a profit. The only cost for the government would be in physically obtaining the materials and mass-producing the generators, and this cost would be minimal compared to the benefits incurred by those in need of electricity post-hurricane. This would allow many more people to have solar powered generators than can afford them now at the current prices. 

Figure 2: This is the KaliPAK 601, a solar powered generator.  The generator has a capacity of 558 Wh and can power many small items such as phones, lights, and handheld devices. [3]

These personal generators would be used as a last resort for households if both the microgrid that the house is connected to is out as well as the main grid system. The new proposed microgrid system should result in less outages that are easier to repair in shorter time intervals, but these generators would ensure that even in emergency outage situations, urgent energy needs are still met for as many citizens of Puerto Rico as possible. 

Putting these solar-powered generators into stores, in addition to the gasoline-powered generators that are already being sold, can reduce the amount of stress and panic citizens feel after a storm.  Even though solar powered generators are not as powerful as gasoline powered generators, they can still be used to power phones, lights, handheld and portable medical devices, and other small appliances in a last-resort scenario. 

While a solar generator may not be feasible for all families, they serve as an important alternative to gasoline-based generators. This product would be targeted towards people who wanted to purchase a regular generator, but due to lack of fuel and increased demands for the generator, could not purchase one. As such, families living below the poverty line who may not be able to afford a gasoline generator would not be the primary audience of this product. After storms and during power outages, the prices of gasoline and generators increase significantly, while their availability decreases dramatically. These new solar-powered generators, if sold at a subsidized cost, could be more accessible to the citizens of Puerto Rico, and it could serve as an emergency source of energy for small power needs, such as charging medical devices or charging phones to be able to communicate.