Puerto Rico’s first electric power cooperative brings 21st century innovation to the rural center of the island




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The Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña (the Hydroelectric Cooperative of the Mountain, in English) is Puerto Rico’s first electric power cooperative. The Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña is organized with the purpose of providing business owners and residents in the municipalities of Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares and Utuado with cost-effective and resilient energy generated from renewable sources. The efforts of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña are aimed at strengthening the communities in the Cordillera Central such that its residents no longer suffer the challenges, risks and harm to their health and economic well-being due to the lack of reliable and resilient electricity. To achieve this, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña will provide, cost-effective and resilient energy from renewable sources through its three main projects.

The three projects of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña are complementary and a social investment to improve the living conditions of the residents of the Cordillera Central. In addition, they promote the economic development of the towns in the service area. These projects also promote the creation of direct and indirect jobs for the residents of these communities. The three projects are: Hidroenergia Renace, ReEnFoCo and Microrred de la Montaña.

Hidroenergía Renace (in English, Hydro Energy Reborn) consists of the acquisition, restoration and generation of electricity through the hydroelectric plants of Caonillas and Dos Bocas, currently underused or in total disuse. The generative capacity of these hydroelectric plants when newly built was 43-megawatts nameplate peak production. Currently, there is only limited generation from one plant and two plants are completely out of service. The plants have not received any significant improvements since their construction, and maintenance has been lacking. Leveraging 21st century improvements, the cooperative estimates that the generative capacity of these hydroelectric plants can be improved to 50-megawatts nameplate peak production serving as a cost-effective and reliable source of base energy.

The Resiliencia Energética Fotovoltaica Comunitaria project (in English, Community Resilience through Photovoltaic Energy, and represented in Spanish by the acronym, ReEnFoCo) will install hundreds of photovoltaic systems on the roofs of local businesses, community centers (including churches) and some residences in Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares, and Utuado. The project acronym ReEnFoCo also means “refocus” in Spanish and represents a refocus on Puerto Rico’s most remote rural communities to address the energy needs of the forgotten and ignored residents who were without electricity for more than one year after the devastation left behind after Hurricane Maria.

The ReEnFoCo project is a community resilience program to ensure that residents of the most remote areas have access to electricity after the next natural disaster and, under normal conditions, cost-effective electricity with a fixed price. The fixed “on-bill financing” payment for electric power service is more cost-effective and predictable than the current electricity bill, and helps small business owners avoid the impact of speculative fossil fuel costs. These grid-connected systems will include battery storage and a bimodal controller to ensure electricity is available even when the power grid is not in operation.

The Microrred de la Montaña project (in English, Microgrid of the Mountain) will be the first intermunicipal microgrid in Puerto Rico and combines the generation of hydroelectric plants and photovoltaic systems to power new 38-kilovolt lines between the towns of Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares and Utuado. The goal of the Microgrid of the Mountain is to create a second tier of energy resilience for the people of the Cordillera Central by combining the base generation of the hydroelectric plants with the local generation and storage of the ReEnFoCo project. This project offers residents in the cooperative’s service area an option to “island” the local energy grid when the larger electric grid fails in Puerto Rico leveraging the smart management of resources in the area. The project empowers residents of the Cordillera Central to take control of their electric power service and decision-making regarding the electricity they consume.

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