Tesla wants to re-build Puerto Rico’s Power system infrastructure

When I first heard about Elon Musk’s statement on Twitter , that Tesla can re-build Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, I had some concerns, so I did some research and I asked an industry expert, Brian Curtis, CEO and founder of Concentric Power.

First, let's take a look at what Tesla's capabilities are, then we will hear from Brian Curtis.

Tesla has their Powerpack solution which is indeed scalable. Tesla states that the Powerpack system scales to the space, power and energy requirements of any site, from small commercial businesses to regional utilities. It can be configured in various arrangements .

Tesla's Powerpack has 16 individual battery pods, each with an isolated DC/DC converter. This is a pod architecture with onboard power electronics.(Image courtesy of Tesla)

Tesla’s Powerpack has 16 individual battery pods, each with an isolated DC/DC converter. This is a pod architecture with onboard power electronics.(Image courtesy of Tesla)

See this YouTube video for more details:

Here are some thoughts from Brian Curtis on Tesla’s update of Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure. Concentric has team experience with solar in Puerto Rico:

I don't disagree with Tesla's proposal and believe Puerto Rico should pursue this plan of action with a few tweaks. At a high level, 40% renewables is achievable – currently, California is on track for 50% renewables by 2030. The solar cost estimate is about right. The battery costs I think are overly optimistic but directionally correct and can/should be negotiated with Musk on pricing. Tesla / Solar City is a credible team to do this, but not the only team. If I were Governor of Puerto Rico, I would not sole source this to Tesla and would use the opportunity to also build local businesses and a competitive long-term market.

With that said, there are 2 major things missing from the renewable part of the story: wind and energy efficiency. Wind is self-explanatory. Aggressive energy efficiency codes should be implemented as part of the overall rebuild for residential, commercial, industrial and government. The latter 3 would all benefit from high efficiency onsite self-generation/distributed power in the form of cogeneration and other firm power.

Also, part of the energy infrastructure upgrade plan should be to upgrade the fuel infrastructure to include clean natural gas and get away from dirty diesel, which would require a new LNG terminal. This would be tough to justify under normal circumstances, but this situation presents an ideal opportunity.

Now, based on this article, if 25% of the grid will be back on line in the next month, and assuming some level of rapid deployment on solar/batteries, we are still looking at how to solve for the remaining 35%. This is where it gets interesting. The rest of the grid will need to be upgraded all around, including generation and transmission and distribution (T&D). To minimize the cost and maximize the reliability and resiliency, the new grid design should push hard towards distributed generation, both onsite and merchant. This will reduce cost of T&D. The T&D that is built can be “smart” to accommodate even more renewables later – and hopefully underground to beautify the island. The generation mix can range in size from, say, 2 MW to 250 MW. Cost would average about $1200/kW for high efficiency CCGT and cogen. If Concentric's approach for modular cogen is used, we can drive that average cost down.

Editor’s note: Here are a couple of examples of Concentric Power’s modular cogeneration plant solutions. Their solutions are modular, pre-engineered, cogeneration Clean Power Stations. Their “power plant as a product” was designed to include an ample amount of easily navigable space along with color-coded mechanical equipment that indicate processes in a visual way, while also delivering a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs for their customers:

So what do you think? Please add your comments below. You will need to be registered on Planet Analog to give a comment.

3 comments on “Tesla wants to re-build Puerto Rico’s Power system infrastructure

  1. DaveR1234
    October 25, 2017

    Neither proposal addressed power distribution.  I was in Puerto Rico many years ago and was struck by the overhead power line mess.  There were areas where you could barly see the sky (exaggeration!) and It probably got a lot worse since then.  I'm guessing the recent storm did as much damage to the distribution as it did to generation.

  2. Steve Taranovich
    October 25, 2017

    @DaveR1234—You are correct—-the power infrastructure has two parts—generating and distribution. I only discussed the generation part but it is obvious that underground cable is best for Puerto Rico.   Or, another alternative is more local/regional power plants—with undergraound transmission as well But the powers at hand had better start soon!

  3. Aries1470
    October 26, 2017

    My personal opinion would be to add way more of renewables in to the mix.

    Everyone keeps talking about solar and wind. Sure, use batteries as “base load”, but, since I am far away, and have not been fortunate enough to visit P.R. before, I will take an “arm chair” approach.

    There is NO mention of WAVE POWER.

    It makes no sense for an island nation to not consider it, it will not take up valuable land space – Solar farms need a fair amount of space, wind farms, have health issues correlated with them in regards to infra-sound, depending on which study you adhere to.

    Both Solar and Wind are the pin-up babies of renewables, and I get that, but there are many other forms of renewables too.

    What about Geothermal? Is that an option for this island, since it lies at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates, theoretically, there should be a viable option for that option too, of which can also provide base load without the need for extra battery capacity.

    So, here are some links, for wave technology,

    Since I am located in Australia, here is a Wiki link:

    Ceto: My personal poster boy. Why? Because it attacks two issues at the same time, Power – Energy Production, and the other Water – Desalination.

    So two for one, this I believe would be extremely useful since infrastructure was damaged, so besides power, water can also be accommodated at the same time that is a basic human need.

    There are two versions, up to CETO 5, you would have pipes etc and generation and water desalination on-shore due to the water pressure. With CETO 6, it will house the power production within the buoy, so electricity production will be made off-shore and water desalination will be powered by the electricity produced.

    Here are some other technologies that use wave power:

    I believe that the people of Puerto Rico, deserve something better now, since this is an opportunity to shine and become independent of fuel for electricity production.

    The draw back offcourse, is, that fossil fuel is cheaper to implement on the short term, but more expensive on the long term due to consistent expenses and fuel fluctuations.

    Let transportation means be for now what will need fuel to run.

    Base load to be handled by Wave, Geothermal and Batteries, and production to be supplemented by Wind and Solar.

    I also agree with you @steve.taranovich, it would be a great opportunity to dig trenches and pipe everything underground for cables and infrastructure, as this will also help in the future as it will reduce incidents of power/ telephone (landline)/ internet disruptions. They could theoretically become an energy producer and net exporter even, i.e. to other islands in the region.

    Just a thought.

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