Solar PV and microgrids post-Irma: Some survive, others sustain damage

Antigua at 50km from the eye of the storm saw sustained winds at time exceeding 275 km/hour. The solar power system on Antiguga – designed and installed by PV Energy – survived hurricane Irma without damages or substantial system failures. Designed to withstand hurricanes of up to the category 4, each of the 55 solar power installations on Antigua withstood the winds, ranging from several kWp to the 3 MWp and 4 MWp utility scale installations at the international airport of Antigua and in the Lavington/Bethesda region with a total of 38,000 panels mounted, survived. One of these PV systems, based on a 50 kWp sun2safe hybrid converter, was even able to generate 25% of its maximum expected performance during the worst hours of the hurricane, thanks to its proprietary MPPT tracking algorithm which is able to optimise the production even under extreme weather conditions.

In St. Thomas, photos of a destroyed solar farm have emerged, identified as the 4.2 MW Estate Donoe solar farm. One report from the island said it was safe to assume solar panels went airborned during Irma. The solar farm was commissioned in 2015, owned and operated by U.S. Boulder, CO based Main Street Power. 

Haiti’s solar PV + battery storage microgrid survived in-tact after Hurricane Irma passed through. Following a thorough preparation for its 200 kW solar array – which included removing the panels to prevent damage from flying debris – Sigora Haiti restored power to all of its 8,000 customers within 10 hours in Môle-St-Nicolas and Jean Rabel, in northwest Haiti. “We take hurricane preparedness very seriously – given where we are located, we have to” says Drew Leibowitz, vice president of operations. “It’s thanks to the pre-emptive action of our local teams that the grid didn’t sustain more extensive damage, and that’s what enabled us to get power back to our customers so quickly today.” 

Sources herehere and here