Tesla returns electricity to a children's hospital in Puerto Rico
Multiple modes of emergency disaster relief are being tested right now. After much criticism of President Trump's initial response to Puerto Rico's hurricane destruction, much of the relief is now being privatized. A $300 million contract has been awarded to a tiny power company, Whitefish Energy, and Elon Musk has also been open to providing aid.
Musk wrote in a tweet:
"The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR."
Next, Musk said he was in "production hell" on a plan to reroute Tesla resources into battery production for Puerto Rico:
"Tesla Semi unveil now Nov 16. Diverting resources to fix Model 3 bottlenecks & increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas."
Now, Tesla is involved on the ground in Puerto Rico, and has used solar panels to turn the lights back on at San Juan's Hospital del Niño, which translates to San Juan Children's Hospital. The project looks amazing:
Musk wrote on Instagram:
"Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital) is the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico. Glad to help support the recovery. Congrats to the Tesla team for working 24/7 to make this happen as fast as possible."
The most grateful for this are likely the hospital's 3,000 patients, as well as 35 chronically sick children who live permanently in the hospital. The price for the batteries and solar panels is on Tesla as a donation. After the emergency situation ends, the hospital can sign a contract to keep them permanently.
Right now, the Electric Power Authority estimates that only a mere 25% of Puerto Rico's power is up and functioning. The total cost of the power grid is expected to reach $5 billion, and it will take months to rebuild.
Google is also deploying balloons through Alphabet, to create a portable phone network in the wake of the destruction. Puerto Ricans can at least access phone lines and some internet browsing, even if the power grid situation is extremely slow and disheartening. Tesla claims that the soil panels are only the start of a massive electricity effort, so let's hope that they can give back to the American people in the form of preparing Puerto Rico's access to power. It's deeply needed.
What do you think about Tesla and Alphabet getting involved in Puerto Rico? It is good, but long-term, this may be a trial balloon for privatized for-profit disaster relief. How do you feel about that? Should companies like Tesla and Google be responsible for cleaning up after the US government? Which do you think is more accountable, Trump or Tesla?
Disaster relief certainly needs a major overhaul. Between Hurricane Katrina, the 2014 Flint water crisis that continues to this day, and the unfolding disaster in Puerto Rico, our mechanisms for internal repair are falling apart, and need to be restored.