Voluntary work in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, 2017 – 2018

This is probably one of the best things that I have done in my life so far. Below is an article that we published in IEEE. Click here to access the full paper.

PV-Battery Systems for Critical Loads during Emergencies: Case Study from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

         Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 and left large parts of the island without electricity for months. As Figure 1 shows, restoration in remote mountainous regions took considerably longer.

      Long-term power outages can be lethal to individuals who rely on electrically-powered medical devices or require medicines that must be refrigerated. While the initial death toll of Hurricane Maria is 64, due to the lack of utilities, such as electricity, the actual number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria is closer to 2975. This number is calculated by comparing the total medical-related deaths during 2017 with the average numbers in the past four years. Another study estimates the death toll at 4645. It is likely that remote areas were more severely affected because damaged roads not only prevented access to medical facilities but also hampered the regular delivery of medical supplies and fuel for portable generators. Communities at large were deprived of electricity, water, hospitals and clinics, communication and transportation availability for months; and still 200 days later, 0.16 million people lack electricity. The devastating destruction from the hurricane is highlighted in Figure 2.

        Small systems combining photo-voltaic (PV) generation and battery energy storage could be deployed during such emergencies to help affected individuals cope until grid-supplied power is restored. However, very little reliable data is available on how such systems would actually be used to meet critical medical needs and thus on what their design requirements should be. In order to gather data on how emergency systems would actually work, and to provide some relief to a severely affected community, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle made three field-trips to Jayuya, a remote small town in the mountainous center of Puerto Rico, to collect preliminary information about medical needs, install some PV-battery systems and gather the data collected by these systems after several months of utilization. Some pictures highlighting the work carried out by researchers at the University of Washington is shown in Figure 3.

Read the full article here

C. Keerthisinghe, M. Ahumada-Paras, L. D. Pozzo, D. S. Kirschen, H. Pontes, W. K Tatum, M. A. Mattos, “PV-Battery Systems for Critical Loads During Emergencies: A Case Study from Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria,” in IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 82-92, Jan.-Feb. 2019. doi: 10.1109/MPE.2018.2877896

Author: Chanaka Keerthisinghe

Ph.D in Electrical Engineering, Photography, Mountaineering, Hiking

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