UW-Madison students will install solar panels in Puerto Rico

March 19, 2018

A group of about 30 students from UW-Madison has started a project to bring solar energy to Puerto Rico, called Solar Para Niños. 

The students will design and install a distributed solar energy system at a nonprofit shelter for abused children outside the city of Mayaguez. 

Hogar Albergue para Niños Jesus de Nazaret is a nonprofit shelter for physically abused children, which currenly hosts 14 children, newborn to 11 year-old. 

"Puerto Rico has the most expensive electricity rates in the country," Tinjum said.

UW Department of Engineering Professional Development professor James Tinjum helped create the group of students. According to Tinjum, installing the solar panels and utilizing the island's sunny weater at the shelter might cut their electricity bill in half. They are currently paying around $1,000 per month on energy. 

"These are kids who have been taken from their homes who have had horrible home lives," said Allie Stephens, a project manager from the university's Engineers Without Borders chapter. "Being able to give these kids more opportunities by freeing up the money they spend on electricity ... would be a really beneficial thing in their lives."

Angel Perez, a doctoral student on the project, grew up in Puerto Rico. 

"In January when I visited the island, my aunt still didn't have any power and was running on a generator, spending money everyday to fuel to run the generator for a couple of hours," he said.

The group's design uses almost 100 of the panels on the shelter, which are approximately $300 each. Their goal is to raise $60,000 by July 1 to complete the first phase of the project. Tinjum plans to participate in a 1250 mile bike ride this summer in an effort to raise money.