Green Energy

The Puerto Rico Solar Energy and Storage Association (SESA-PR) and SunCast Media will host the 2020 SunCast Puerto Rico solar energy convention from Oct. 12-14, in which attendees can participate in a variety of activities to gain industry knowledge and boost their networking.

PJ Wilson, founder and president of SESA, explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the upcoming event will feature a series of conferences and workshops, as well as 20 companies that have so far signed up for booths. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this edition of SunCast Puerto Rico will be held virtually in what Wilson described as an “in-person online format” instead of the convention originally scheduled for last June at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

That is, rather than holding conferences through meeting platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, both of which have become commonplace during the worldwide pandemic, attendees will enjoy an immersive 3D experience that replicates the experience of physically visiting a venue.

“You download the program in your computer and it’s more like a game. It’s more like a video game, where you have an avatar, you can dress your avatar however you want, and you use your keyboard, the mouse and your headset, and you can talk to people. But even better than an in-person conference is that… everyone’s name is displayed above their heads,” Wilson said.

Some of the topics to be discussed throughout the event are Puerto Rico’s challenges in achieving 100 percent renewable energy, resiliency for those hardest hit by Hurricane Maria, Department of Housing funds for solar energy and storage, how to rebuild resiliently, incentives for utilities, Caribbean trends, storage trends, COVID-19’s impact on the renewable energy industry, microgrids, industry projections, climate wealth and the congressional perspective.

In addition, attendees can access NABCEP-certified workshops in Spanish and English on solar energy design and installation, offered by John Marlon Acevedo Ríos (Spanish) and Kyle Bolger (English), industry leaders from Solar Energy International.

Featured speakers include Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González; Jaime López Díaz, deputy executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa); Kelly Speaks-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association; John Berger, founder and CEO of Sunnova; Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, former governor and resident commissioner; and Lillian Mateo, associate commissioner of the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau.

“For anybody in the industry, this is the event of the year… The only thing that would help make this event more magical is for more people to know about it. It’s good for people who work in the solar industry or for people who are really passionate about the subject,” Wilson said.

Renewable Energy Key to Resilience

Wilson underscored the importance of transitioning to renewable energy, as established in the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act of 2019, which states that Prepa must obtain 40 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025, 60 percent by 2040, and 100 percent by 2050. According to the founder of SESA-PR, only 4 percent of Puerto Rico’s energy comes from renewable resources at the moment. “We can get there, but it is going to take it being a top priority for everyone that works in energy on the island,” he said.

One of Wilson’s proposals is to enact a policy in which a portion of federal recovery funds for energy infrastructure is used to supply solar panels and storage systems to the population, particularly those who are more vulnerable to suffering greater repercussions from natural disasters. He argued that fixing the island’s outdated power infrastructure would take years, whereas this initiative would offer a fast solution to interrupted services as critical infrastructure projects ensue.

Specifically, he asserted that offering a swift alternative would save lives in the event of another large-scale natural disaster, such as Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the seismic activities that devastated Puerto Rico’s southwestern region earlier this year, before the pandemic hit.

Wilson also observed that some deaths in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane were caused by the lack of power that prevented people from getting medical attention. “The number one way to save lives is to use solar panels and batteries… that’s not what we’re hearing government agencies say,” he opined.

Wilson said that each conference costs $30, but for $275, attendees can have access to all the features. Those interested can get a preview of the experience in virtual demos until Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. For more information, visit https://suncastpr.com/.

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