SolarCity, the California-based company recently purchased by Tesla, finished installing a solar-paneled micro-grid that now powers the entire island of Ta’u in November. But that project was much, much smaller than what Musk is now talking about. Ta’u’s population is only a few hundred, and the entire project cost about $8 million.
For now, only about 9 percent of Puerto Rico's residents have electricity. Governor Rossello said Monday that officials will need an entire month just to raise that level to a quarter of the island. One of the most urgent issues is delivering diesel fuel to hospitals to power generators, and some hospitals have already shut down temporarily for lack of power, Rossello said.
This isn’t the first time Musk has proposed launching a major innovative infrastructural project on Twitter.
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In July, Musk claimed he had “verbal approval” for his drilling venture, The Boring Company, to begin working on an ultra-fast underground hyperloop transportation system connecting major cities in the northeast corridor.
At that time, all four cities he mentioned connecting — New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC — told Seeker that tweet was the first they’d heard of the plan.
It’s also not the first time Tesla has moved to help hurricane victims. In mid-September, as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, Tesla pushed out a software update that increased the battery capacity for some of its electrical cars that extended their range by unlocking extra battery power. That allowed the vehicles to travel farther from the storm’s danger zone on a single charge.
It’s little surprise that Puerto Rico’s electricity supply collapsed when the storm struck the island on September 20. Power plants operated by the territory’s sole utility provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, are 44 years old on average, compared to an industry-wide average of 18 years, according to Reuters. The company said in an April fiscal plan that "years of under-investment have led to severe degradation of infrastructure." It filed for bankruptcy in July.
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