What Happens When A Hurricane Meets Wind Turbines & Solar Panels

This is a fascinating video for what it shows of the effects of a hurricane on Wind Turbines & Solar Panels.

The guy who made it is Gung Ho for alternative energy but clearly is unclear on the concept of concrete bunkers with a nuke in them being more survivable than bird choppers and plastic plates.

I was also surprised at the amount of “product” Tesla is busy installing. The video is mum on who is paying. I doubt Tesla is doing it for free, but who knows. I’d be interested in knowing how much Emergency Relief Money he might be sucking up…

The first 5 to 6 minutes does a good job of showing the downside. Then from 6 to 10 shows more of what is being built new. Toward the end he gets a bit preachy about the joys of alternative energy. One thing made me smirk; when he said this push to solar and wind replacement power could be a model of putting the whole island “off the grid” – apparently unclear on the concept of The Grid and that a small island is already by definition “off the grid”. I suspect he really meant that individual facilities could be disconnected from the local power company; but that just means he is unclear that these installations are designed to cooperate with the electric company (small ones on homes often can not even be run stand-alone).

So it’s nice that Tesla is installing some solar power and backup batteries at hospitals and schools; but until the funding is explained and who’s “Other People’s Money” is paying how much for what is detailed: It looks a lot like opportunism on the part of Tesla and wasting money on expensive fragile PC Projects that would have been much better spent on some Shipping Container Diesels and rapid connection.

With no further complaints from me, the video:


Tesla just unveiled its first battery project in Puerto Rico that will restore power to a children’s hospital
Danielle Muoio
Oct. 24, 2017, 11:49 AM
Tesla will use its batteries and solar panels to restore power to Hospital del Niño, a children’s hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This is the “first of many” Tesla projects that will help return electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello initiated talks in early October with Tesla CEO Elon Musk about using the company’s batteries and solar panels to build microgrids around the island. Microgrids can operate independently of the main power grid to provide power generated by renewable energy resources.

Puerto Rico has said it could take six months before its power grid is repaired and returning power to the island’s 3.5 million residents.
A Tesla representative didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the project itself. It’s unclear how large the project will be and who is funding it.

But Tesla said it’s the “first of many” projects to come, so we can expect other microgrids to crop up around the island soon. Musk said the company was ramping up battery production as part of its efforts in Puerto Rico.


A Look At The Scale Of Tesla’s Puerto Rico Electricity Solution

OCT 12 2017 BY

Can Tesla pull off a viable battery solution for Puerto Rico, and can the U.S. territory afford it?

There’s not a yes or no answer to the above question, and as we’re sure you can imagine, it’s not going to come cheap. Yes, it’s possible. No, powering the entire island in any reasonable amount of time is probably not a reality at this point. Yes, it will be a monstrous undertaking even if it’s only a partial solution. Yes, it’s probably the right thing to do. No, Puerto Rico can’t afford it, but perhaps they’ll get more assistance.
The U.S. territory is suffering from huge debt and rebuilding may cost some $5 billion. So, the truth is, it may never fully recover, and even if it does, as soon as another storm rolls through Puerto Rico may be right back where it started.

Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, was asked via social media if his company may be able to get Puerto Rico back online with solar power and battery storage solutions. He replied:

“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.”

So a $5 Billion meal ticket, likely being punched by “Disaster Relief” where nobody is watching the checkbook closely, subject to repeated “do overs” every time a major storm comes through, and Elon has worked out he can do this repeatedly on many islands… OK… what’s wrong / missing in this picture? Oh, yeah, cost / benefit analysis and prudence.

Teslarati put together a detailed, real-world estimate. Let’s take a quick look at how it all breaks down.

Puerto Rico population: 3.4 million
Annual energy consumption: 19 billion kWh (19 million MWh) or 5,310 kWh (5.2 MWh) per capita

To cover only 40 percent of PR’s needs, Tesla will need to install a 4,164 MW solar plant, which is 320 times as large as the one Tesla constructed in Kauai (13 MW solar farm). The grid in Ta’u is 1.4 MW. Based on SolarCity Q3 2016 installation costs, the PR grid would add up to about $8.32 billion.

So 40% coverage…. $8 Billion tab… Hmmmm…. AND it can be sold as a “Jobs Program”… Just that small matter of who is paying for it to be worked out. At $8 Billion, not Elon. As Tesla is making losses and has to borrow cash, not Tesla. As bankers already worried about the debt-no-profit at Tesla won’t loan more money to Puerto Rico or Tesla for Puerto Rico, not the banks. As Puerto Rico is flat busted broke with more debt / capita than can ever be repaid, not Puerto Rico. So let’s see, who’s left… Oh, right, the US Taxpayer and folks bilked by pseudo-sorta-“charities”… (Color me skeptical that this is not coming out of mainland tax dollars…)

What about batteries?

To support the above solar plant, the company would need a 5,000 MWh (5,000,000 kWh) battery system. To put this in perspective, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery project underway in Australia is a 129 MWh system. So, we’re talking nearly 40 times larger than that! Remember, this is just to power 40 percent of PR. At Tesla’s $250 per kWh, this is $1.25 billion in battery costs alone.

Digging even deeper shows that Tesla (SolarCity) installed 900 MWh in 2016 and 2,400 MWh in its history. Powering 40 percent of PR would require over double the company’s lifetime output.

All in all, PR is looking at just shy of $10 billion to cover this project, and this doesn’t include interest. This is double what it will cost PR to go about it the traditional way. Teslarati factors in a 20-year loan at 7 percent (under such terms PR will pay over $20 billion). Will it pay off?

We start to get a clue how the funding works by looking at some of the prior such “projects”. This story is about Puerto Rico, but includes the retro info:


Back in 2016, Musk installed a microgrid on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Up until November of that year, the island had run primarily on diesel shipped in from the mainland. So Musk stepped in to install more than 5,000 solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpacks for storage, as the Verge reported at the time. It was primarily funded by American Samoa and federal agencies like the Department of the Interior.

Maybe someone ought to ring up Trump and tell him to make sure Elon is not sucking on a $Billion sized Dept of ??? teat somewhere unobserved. Oh, wait, looks like maybe folks are already thinking along those lines:

[..] But perhaps the most disturbing part of the response to Hurricane Maria’s effect on Puerto Rico is that the federal government’s help in recovery is not guaranteed. There’s no evidence that the feds are interested in funding their own large-scale public recovery projects. There’s also no reason to believe the federal government will subsidize Musk’s private efforts, as it did with Ta’u. And, most alarmingly, there’s nothing to suggest that the White House intends to enforce proper oversight over any aspect of the rebuilding at all.

Though maybe it’s a “Spec” deal with NGO / Charity / Government money to be hustled later:


The hospital’s new system allows it to generate all the energy it needs, according to El Nuevo Dia. The facility has 35 permanent residents with chronic conditions; it also offers services to some 3,000 young patients, the newspaper says. As for who is paying for the power system, the head of the hospital tells Nuevo Dia that for now, it’s a donation — and that after the energy crisis is over, a deal could make it permanent.

So “The first one’s always free” comes to mind… and a “deal” later? Watch that space…

More recently (therefore approaching “later”…)


Cuomo rallies for federal relief package for Puerto Rico

By Ruth Weissmann and Anna Sanders

February 3, 2018 | 4:22pm | Updated

Gov. Cuomo continue to call on Congress to fund a $94.4 billion disaster relief package for Puerto Rico
at a rally in the Bronx on Saturday, more than four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

“What we do today will determine the future of Puerto Rico — that is how serious this is,” Cuomo declared at a South Bronx nonprofit center.

Congress passed a $36.5 billion aid package in October 2017 that included funding for hurricane and wildfire relief to Puerto Rico and others, but the island says this isn’t enough.

The $94 billion aid package requested by Puerto Rico includes $31 billion to rebuild homes and another $18 billion for electricity.

Let’s see… 3 Million population. $18,000 million for “electricity”… That’s $6,000 / person. At that rate, you could buy each one of them a personal Honda Generator and have $5000 left over for fuel. Per person.

Or: $10 Billion to bail out Tesla. $5 Billion to build the real power grid that will run things. And $3 Billion left over for “Friends Of Bill” and various payola. What’s not to like? /sarc;

Well, at least I think we know where Tesla expects to get the paycheck…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to What Happens When A Hurricane Meets Wind Turbines & Solar Panels

  1. John F. Hultquist says:

    In modern history, PR has never been and will never be a functional society. Puerto Rico had its maximum population of about 3.8 M folks in the year 2000. It has lost about 400,000 people since then.
    The best thing that could happen is to remove the remaining 3.4 M people and resettle them.

    ¾ of them are white, while about 95% speak Spanish. English is the main language of about 5%. There are places other than the USA that some of the PR people might like to go. Whatever. Just move them to an existing major city.
    The island could be cleared of all structures and the natural environment rehabilitated. Only a few research stations, similar to Antarctica, could operate there.
    Expect the transformation to take 20 years.
    In another 20 years (about 2060 rounded), the place would be mostly healed and will have become a fantastic environmental jewel.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Or just make them a State like all the others, without the strange rules and limits of a Commonwealth, and they ought to do fine. IIRC, there’s about as many Puerto Rican’s living in the rest of the USA today already. (My Daughter-in-law is 1/2 Puerto Rican and her Dad came from there).

    Florida has a large and thriving P.R. community. One of my favorite restaurants there was a Puerto Rican place. NYC also has a very large P.R. population.

    Basically, the P.R. Spanish speakers are a drop in the bucket of the extant mainland Spanish speaking population. No need to look to other countries.


    The Spanish language in the United States has forty-five million Hispanic and Latino Americans speak Spanish as their first, second or heritage language, and there are six million Spanish language students in the United States. making it the second most spoken language of the United States. With over 50 million native speakers and second language speakers, the United States now has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico, although it is not an official language of the country. Spanish is the most studied foreign language in United States schools and is spoken as a native tongue by 41 million people, plus an additional 11 million fluent second-language speakers. About half of all American Spanish speakers also assessed themselves as speaking English “very well” in the 2000 U.S. Census.

    There are more Spanish-speakers in the United States than speakers of French, German, Italian, Hawaiian, varieties of Chinese and Native American languages combined. According to the 2012 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by 38.3 million people aged five or older, more than twice that of 1990.

    So Puerto Ricans at a measly 3 Million would not even be noticed.

    I live in that brown blob of California in about a 25% area…

    But really, though, turn it into a nature park? Prime Caribbean resort area? Just set up the legal and political structure to be more like Miami and the island would be rolling in money in no time…

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    It is interesting that he is surprised at the devastation of the wind farms and solar panel farms – it’s as if he has never spend 30 minutes on youtube looking at videos of wind turbines blowing up, or seen live camera footage of major hurricanes ripping apart things like solar panels, (signs, patio roofs, garage doors blowing out windows) Just completely clueless.

    Wind farms could survive to some degree if they wind turbines could have their blades pulled off and put in safe storage prior to storm arrival and then re-installed. Standing wind turbines simply cannot be engineered to survive that kind of blow in their normal operational configuration. Their job is to harvest energy from the wind, to survive a 200 mph blow they would need to shed 99% of their wind capture cross section.

    Wind power increases at the cube of the wind speed. Most wind turbines reach maximum rated output at about 15 meter / second wind speeds or about 33 mph.

    So using the cube power rule a 200 mph wind has 222 x the power of a 33 mph wind speed, there is just no way you can keep blades on a turbine even if you feather them at that sort of power multiple over max design power.

    Drop the blades so it is just a standing pole and a generator on top and “maybe” you could keep it in the air.

    Same goes for the solar panels, you would need some way to lower the panels into a sheltered enclosure or some how shutter them with an enclosure that could be rolled out on tracks to cover them like an aircraft shelter, typical support structures and panels are simply not strong enough to handle the buffeting, flutter and forces induced by winds over a flat panel.

    You could protect them but you would totally destroy the economics of the instillation, by the time you finished the storm proof instillation you would not generate enough power in the service life of the installation to pay off the ruggedized construction.

    Nice try but expensive lesson. It looks like the Tesla panels are being installed at ground level which is a big improvement but I would bet still will not survive 160 mph + winds.

  4. Another Ian says:


    There has been a discussion at Jo Nova on a more suitable name for renewables. Last I saw was

    “Ephemeral energy. Batteries not included”

  5. philjourdan says:

    It takes a lot of money to send men (and women) to Mars. Musk has to get it from somewhere.

  6. philjourdan says:

    @E.M. – “Commonwealth” is a non issue. Besides PR, there are 4 others that are called “States” but are technically Commonwealths. (MA, PA, KY ands VA).

    It is the territory versus “State” that is the issue. However, that may be a non starter as well since it looks like California is in the same boat as PR (but they do not have the excuse of a natural disaster – yet).

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I saw a show on the various States vs Commonwealths vs Territories vs… It stated that the nature of the P.R. Commonwealth was different (IIRC that it was NOT also a State and that various laws singled it out but that could not be done to a State). That may in fact be the same as the distinction you are making with “territory” vs State.

    There’s some collection of “legal stuff” that goes away as problems once P.R. is a State, whatever the name of the legal category. But yes, clearly it isn’t just “Commonwealth”.

    Per California:

    Don’t you know it’s all peachy keen now? California has unexpected $Billions of surplus and Governor Moonbeam is even saying he won’t spend it all; some is going into our “Rainy Day Fund”. All thanks to a massive increase in vehicle fees, gas taxes, and income tax revenues. So “no problemo”… All it takes to fix massive overspending on Government boondoggles and underfunded pension programs is more taxes; and now we’ve “proved” it…

    (Laugh, cry, sarc;, what’s a fella to do… but that was on the news here…)

  8. philjourdan says:

    I will not be buying any California bonds in the near future. Some of those “taxes” are under assault by ingrates who have the radical idea that the money they earn is theirs first! And government second. The only difference between gray-out and moonbeam is that moonbeam will be gone when the boom is lowered. Gray-out did not understand timing too well.

    The problems in California are institutional. As in there is no middle class to speak of. You have the coastal rich, the poor, and the middle class is in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas. And eventually Atlas-CA is going to shrug (even as they stand in front of the cameras and profess their hypocrisy).

    Back to PR – there is a catch. States do not “join” the US. They “buy in” (hence why so much land in the west is federally owned – that is the only currency they had at the time of statehood). What is PR going to use to “buy-in”? They have no land to give to the feds. And they have no money. So while they may vote for Statehood (which in any fair election will never happen since it only has 1/3 support), the other 50 have to vote to accept them. And right now that looks as remote as California becoming fiscally sound.

  9. philjourdan says:

    As a follow up, the “difference” between a “Commonwealth” and a “State” is in the governance. A “State” rules. A “Commonwealth” operates on the cooperative concept.

    The government says jump and the localities ask “how high”. Not so in Commonwealths. In those, the government says “jump” and the localities ask “what is in it for us”. Because without the carrot of the “Commonwealth” funds, the localities can tell them to take a hike (there are other ways, but like amending the Constitution, they are much more difficult and rarely used).

    I am not sure how “Commonwealth” works in PR, but that is how it works in the 4 contiguous ones.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    P.R. already had the vote for Statehood and it passed and has been sent to the Feds.

    The vote was very light, so the True Believers were able to determine the result. It seems there is no requirement for any particular percentage to vote, so the result stands.

    As to Congress bringing them in, that’s unlikely just because folks are afraid what 2 more Senators would do to the balance in the Senate.

    By Frances Robles
    June 11, 2017

    SAN JUAN, P.R. — With schools shuttered, pensions at risk and the island under the authority of an oversight board in New York City, half a million Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to become America’s 51st state, in a flawed election most voters sat out.

    With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, a landslide critics said indicated that only statehood supporters had turned out to the polls. Opposition parties who prefer independence or remaining a territory boycotted the special election, which they considered rigged in favor of statehood.

    On an island where voter participation often hovers around 80 percent, just 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Voting stations accustomed to long lines were virtually empty on Sunday.

    Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, said he planned to take the victory to Washington and press Congress to admit Puerto Rico to the union.

    So interesting times ahead…

    One of THE big gains for P.R. from statehood would be that they can declare bankruptcy as a State, not under the present rules of Commonwealth. So big inducement for P.R. as they get to dump (shaft lenders) for $HUGE…

    We’ll find out if the Congress agrees to this as a solution or not…

    My Bias: I don’t care much if P.R. becomes a State or a separate country. It does bother me that the present system is very broken in several ways. I think either State or Country would work better for them. I have a slight bias toward State as I like the idea of being able to just go there and spend a few months if I felt like it. Visit in-laws, do a food tour, fish, and all…

  11. ossqss says:

    This post sparked a memory of a read last year on solar panels. It was this….


  12. philjourdan says:

    @E.M. – Note the “non-binding” part. That is why no one voted. It was boycotted by the other 2 factions (Status Quo and Independence). Since it was non-binding, there was no risk there. They still have not voted for Statehood.

    But like you, I do not care what they decide only that they decide for once (in a binding vote) and stop whining about it. But there still is the “buy-in”. They do not have much to offer to the other 50 to become a state.

    As for State – Guam! Or even America Somoa! Beats the humidity of the Caribbean!

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Well, binding or not it’s off to Congress. (where it can die of neglect…).

    What do they have to offer? See the Miami Beach area as exemplar… season with a trip to Oahu. Just needs some tourist dollars and a few nice bungalows and hotels…

    I’m all for the next State being U.S. Pacific Islands and just let any of them that want in to join the bucket. Guam, Samoa, etc. etc.

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