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US to award up to $440 million for Puerto Rico rooftop solar power

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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) -The Biden administration is launching talks with solar energy companies and nonprofit groups in Puerto Rico on awards of up to $440 million for rooftop solar and battery storage systems in the commonwealth where storms have wiped out the grid in recent years, the Energy Department said on Thursday.

The awards will be the first tranche from a $1 billion fund included in legislation President Joe Biden signed in late 2022 to boost energy resilience for Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable households and communities and help the U.S. territory meet its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.

"Plain and simple, this investment will save lives, all while providing local, good-paying jobs and advancing Puerto Rico’s clean energy transition," said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who has visited the island several times to talk about the fund and boosting the grid at town halls in cities and remote hamlets.

The Energy Department has begun talks with three companies, Generac Power Systems GNRPS.UL, Sunnova Energy NOVA.N, and Sunrun RUN.O, which may be awarded a total of $400 million to deploy residential solar and battery systems.

Nonprofits and cooperatives, including Barrio Electrico and the Environmental Defense Fund, may be awarded a total of $40 million.

Rooftop solar coupled with battery storage can increase independence from the centralized grid, while cutting emissions blamed for climate change.

Up to 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico after 2017's Hurricane Maria, crushed the power grid, studies say. Among the worst hit communities were ones with elderly and low-income people. In some mountain towns, the power was out for 11 months.

In September 2022, a weaker Hurricane Fiona again wiped out the grid, heightening concerns about the fragility of a decades-old system dominated by fossil fuel plants.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner
Editing by Marguerita Choy


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