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Solar panels could be used to solve Puerto Rico's energy shortage

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It has been two weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico and still 95 percent of residents are without power. With much of the islands infrastructure in shambles, and the ability to transfer fossil fuels nearly impossible, it is possible that the blackout could continue for months. One potential solution for turning on the lights is to use solar power.

Local Office Landscape Architecture (LOLA) is a design firm that plans district scale energy and water resiliency projects. As a part of the Hurricane Maria recovery effort, LOLA is collecting, donating and installing solar panels throughout Puerto Rico. LOLA, located in Brooklyn, NY, was a part of a similar humanitarian effort in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

While Sandy's effects are still being felt along America's east coast, LOLA's co-founder, Walter Meyer says Maria is significantly more catastrophic. "Sandy was just a flood event," Meyer says. "Maria had the trifecta of heavy rains, surge events and category five storms."

Meyer has family on the island. His father is one of the millions of people in Puerto Rico who is living without power. "It affected everybody both personally and professionally that has any roots in Puerto Rico," Meyer says.

Meyer says that solar energy's Independence from fossil fuels makes it the most efficient way to jump-start the island's recovery.

"We're going to be making small and medium sized generators in Puerto Rico," Meyer says. "Just to run lights, communication and life-critical systems."

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Meyer believes that bringing increased solar power to Puerto Rico will be an important addition to the economy moving forward.

"If each one teaches one how to do solar in the neighborhoods," Meyer says. "We can keep on shipping materials down and create green jobs that will be part of the economic recovery of Puerto Rico in addition to the hurricane recovery."

For more, check out these stories:
Puerto Rico's damaged infrastructure is putting its most vulnerable residents at risk
These foster kids got the ultimate sleepover after Hurricane Irma
Here are five ways to avoid becoming a victim of disaster fraud

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