Boots on the Ground in the Virgin Islands: Hurricane Recovery Efforts Under Way

NREL has been working closely with The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), voluntary organizations, other national laboratories, and federal agencies—including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)—to support recovery and rebuilding efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the territory in the fall of 2017.

Photo of two men and a woman standing next to debris from a hurricane.

Gregg Tomberlin (left), Michael Ingram, and Eliza Hotchkiss at the Donoe solar array in St. Thomas, which was devastated by two hurricanes in 2017. Photo by Ruth Aubrey, DOE Headquarters Office of Counterintelligence

An NREL team led by Technical Project Lead for Disaster Preparedness, Resilience, and Recovery Eliza Hotchkiss arrived in the USVI on Dec. 7 to assist DOE's Office of Electricity with a power system assessment. The results of the assessment are helping the USVI restore and repair its power systems, as well as harden them to make them more resilient to future disaster-related events. Based out of a joint field office with FEMA, DOE, and other federal agencies, the NREL team has been working with the local utility and others.

While the assessment is focused on opportunities within generation, the team has identified a number of areas for the utility and FEMA to consider during recovery, including transmission and distribution upgrades, demand side management, control system improvements, integration of resilient renewable energy systems, rate structure benefits, and much more. The agreement with FEMA and DOE could be extended to allow the laboratory to work with the Navy Postgraduate School to visualize NREL's resilience recommendations using the Navy's vulnerability modeling tools.

Hotchkiss and NREL Senior Project Leader Mike Callahan are also coordinating recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean affected by the hurricanes.