Tiny Power: Hybrid Microgrid Aids Rural Puerto Rico, Alaskan Arctic

A hybrid microgrid kit in a shipping container offers a reliable, renewable power source in rural areas devastated by emergencies or needing to offset diesel usage.


When devastating weather events like Hurricane Maria leave regions without power, a modular microgrid kit can bring important services online to help communities function better during lengthy rebuilding efforts.

According to a recent article in Microgrid Knowledge, an abandoned school being used as a community center in rural Mariana, Puerto Rico, is being powered with a hybrid microgrid kit manufactured and shipped by California-based BoxPower to Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Aid Project).

Communities Can Assemble Emergency Microgrid Kits

Ariving in a shipping container, the 18,000 lb. kit has solar panels, battery storage and a backup diesel generator -- no electrician needed for assembly.

Our system is standardized, all the electrical work is done, there’s no need for an electrician. It’s sort of like an IKEA set,” Angelo Campus, CEO of BoxPower, told Microgrid Knowledge.

Campus also told Yale Climate Connections that the solar array can be set up in five hours.

Mariana’s local firefighters and others erected their unit.

The array can also be broken down and stored in the original shipping container during extreme weather, with power coming from the diesel backup instead. Multiple BoxPower kits can also be linked to meet larger energy load demands.

However, the cost of the microgrid kit is high. Diesel generators typically used in aid response range from $10,000 to $20,000 plus $1,000-$2,000 per month for diesel fuel. BoxPower’s modular microgrid cost $80,000 to $120,000, but lease-to-own financing loans are possible.

Microgrid Offers Hurricane Survivors Long-Term Resilience

The modular microgrid is now powering the rural region’s community center, a laundromat and a cafe. Focused on building long-term resilience, Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo is establishing the center as a place for children to study and people to work on entrepreneurial projects while the general lack of power in the region continues.

After Hurricane Maria, the project began as post-storm recovery -- organized community members went house-to-house to check that people had food, water and shelter. The community is concerned about emergency response services in the current hurricane season, so Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo volunteers are training, developing emergency response plans and mapping locations of rural Mariana’s residents.

50 KW Solar Microgrid for Rural Alaskan Arctic

BoxPower, part of the recent 2018 Launch Alaska Business Accelerator program, not only develops the “containerized hybrid renewable energy system” being used in Puerto Rico and other overseas locations, but also designs and manufactures custom, modular, off-grid energy systems.

The company just announced it entered into a contract with the NANA Regional Corporation, a tribal corporation with 14,000 shareholders, to integrate 50KW of renewable power into the existing microgrid at Buckland, Alaska, and to offset diesel generation and increase resilience:

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.