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Students to bring solar power to Puerto Rico nursing home
Post-Star - 9/27/2022
Sep. 27—QUEENSBURY — A group of students is headed to Puerto Rico for spring break.
But not on vacation.
The Adirondack Solar Alliance — made up of 15 kids from Queensbury and South Glens Falls — will travel to Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, in April to help install solar panels at a nursing home, to provide affordable and independent energy to elderly residents.
The group started talking about this project in summer of 2021 and teamed up with the nonprofit Let's Share the Sun to bring solar power to an area of Puerto Rico that experiences frequent power shortages.
"Most kids will have never traveled out of the country, so it's definitely a new experience that most of us have never done before," said Bryce Jorgensen, a Queensbury teen. "And it's just something really good to do for the world."
The need is even greater now that the Category 1 Hurricane Fiona devastated the U.S. territory last week, causing widespread flooding.
Adirondack Solar Alliance will fund the installation of solar panels and battery backup at Hogar Cabecitas de Oro, a facility that provides 24-hour nursing and therapy services to 16 elderly residents.
"They settled in on a nursing home that is just being renovated from an old school, but it's in a mountainous region where they're running on diesel generators most of the time and the power is very spotty," said Dr. Todd Jorgensen, Bryce's father.
The solar array and battery backup should cut costs, eliminate power outages, and power the refuge during extended outages.
Since 2010, Let's Share the Sun has been installing solar panels across Haiti, Honduras and Puerto Rico, according to its website. It collaborates with Casa Pueblo, an organization serving the community of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.
"Nearly three quarters of the electrical power for the island is generated from petroleum, all of which is imported to the island," Let's Share the Sun's website explains. "Natural disasters such as the earthquakes in 2020 and Hurricane Maria in 2017 have further weakened the grid infrastructure. All of this adds up to near-daily outages and regular surges in prices."
The mountain community of Adjuntas is especially vulnerable to these factors, as 62% of their people live below the poverty line, and many of them are ailing and elderly, according to Let's Share the Sun.
The teens will bring the solar panels to the site and help put them on the flat roof of the nursing home.
"There will be supervision by people that know what they're doing," Dr. Jorgensen said.
The seed money will not only help this nursing home, but also the hope that the community could eventually go 100% off the grid, he said.
The teens have been canvassing the community, asking local businesses to donate to the fund that will help purchase the solar panels. The students plan to pay for their own transportation and accommodations.
The group has raised $20,000 so far and needs to raise at least $30,190 to purchase the solar panels. But the kids want to raise more than that to expand their project to residential homes.
Contributions can be made online at https://www.letssharethesun.org/initiatives/adirondack-solar-alliance or at https://donorbox.org/adirondack-energy-alliance-supporting-energy-access-in-puerto-rico.
By the time they get to Puerto Rico, the group will have been working on this project for a year and a half.
"I think they'll get a sense of fulfillment just to see this through completion," Dr. Jorgensen said. "We're hoping they grow from it. Learning to go up in front of adults and companies and give a presentation like this is not easy for a group of kids, but they've been doing a good job."
Gretta Hochsprung writes features and hometown news. She can be reached at 518-742-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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