This spring, the Department of Energy (DOE)- funded Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Program (ETIPP), created to assist remote, island, or islanded communities in transforming their energy systems and increasing their energy resilience through strategic planning and specific solutions, welcomed a second cohort of communities to their technical assistance program.

Among the twelve communities selected, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña (Hydroelectric Cooperative of the Mountain)’s Microrred de la Montaña (Microgrid of the Mountain) was assigned to the Southeast Regional technical team which is comprised of members from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Idaho National Lab (INL), and the Coastal Studies Institute.

The ETIPP technical team stopped in Utuado while in Puerto Rico. Pictured from left to right are Jordan Banks (NREL), Tim McJunkin (INL), Ryan Davis (INL), Linda D’Anna (CSI), George Bonner (CSI, NCROEP), and Robert Cox (CSI, UNC- Charlotte).

With the help of the full ETIPP team, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña hopes to determine specifications, designs, and pricing for the implementation of the Microrred de la Montaña, the first inter-municipal microgrid created in Puerto Rico. If established, the new microgrid would have the ability to distribute power from renewable energy sources between the municipalities of Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares, and Utuado, thereby improving the energy resilience of the residents in these communities and decreasing their energy costs.

The implementation of the Microrred de la Montaña would allow the four communities to operate independently of the main power grid in Puerto Rico when necessary. The main power grid connects most areas of Puerto Rico within one system, meaning that when one portion of it needs maintenance or is adversely impacted, all areas could be affected. However, with the microgrid in place, Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares, and Utuado would have access to electricity even when it is unavailable from the main grid. Powered by renewable energy sources, the microgrid could serve as a model for other remote, island, and islanded communities to be more energy resilient in the face of increasing coastal hazards, including storms like Hurricane Fiona which recently led to an island-wide power outage.

In June, the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) Director George Bonner and Drs. Linda D’Anna (CSI) and Robert Cox (UNC-Charlotte), along with others from the ETIPP technical team, had the opportunity to visit the four Puerto Rican communities and meet with folks from the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña.

D’Anna and Cox were eager to make the trip and begin their work of supporting these vulnerable communities and their efforts to build a more resilient and sustainable grid; and for Bonner, the opportunity to assist in Puerto Rico strikes a particular chord.

“During my previous career in the U.S. Coast Guard, I was stationed in Puerto Rico as an engineer during major hurricanes resulting in major utility disruptions. I feel blessed to be able to return to Puerto Rico for this project and work with the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña. I’m excited about the collaboration across communities and government stakeholders to integrate new technologies for a more secure, safe, affordable, and reliable energy future,” he shared.

While the technical team may have their work cut out for them as they determine the best path forward, all are looking forward to yet another chance to make communities in the United States a more sustainable and energy-resilient place to live.

Led by East Carolina University (ECU), The Coastal Studies Institute is a multi-institutional research and educational partnership of the UNC System including North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Elizabeth City State University.



Based at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) advances inter-disciplinary marine energy solutions across UNC System partner colleges of engineering at NC State University, UNC Charlotte, and NC A&T University.  Click on the links below for more information.




ECU's Integrated Coastal Programs (ECU ICP) is a leader in coastal and marine research, education, and engagement.   ECU ICP includes the Coastal Studies Institute, ECU's Department of Coastal Studies, and ECU Diving and Water Safety.


The faculty and staff at the Coastal Studies Institute come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, as well as departments and organizations including ECU Department of Biology, ECU Department of Coastal Studies, NC Sea Grant, the North Carolina Renewable Energy Program, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.


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The ECU Outer Banks campus is home to the Coastal Studies Institute.
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