While the level of government response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria is becoming a political issue, Tesla has sprung into action. The Silicon Valley automaker is sending Powerwall battery packs to Puerto Rico to supply emergency power, reports Bloomberg.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, and Puerto Rico is still largely without power. But Tesla told Bloomberg that some energy-storage systems were already in place, with more on the way. Tesla employees are reportedly on the ground to install the battery packs, and are working with local organizations to identify locations.
The battery packs can be paired with solar panels or other renewable-energy sources to supply power on the storm-ravaged island. The setup does not rely on a connection to the grid, allowing Puerto Ricans to get electricity while the damaged infrastructure is repaired.
In non-emergency situations, the combination of battery packs and solar arrays is a handy way for homeowners to cut their electricity bills and reduce emissions. This decentralized way of generating electricity is known as "distributed generation," and some U.S. utilities have fought it because they view it as a threat to their business model.
Tesla's deployment of battery packs to Puerto Rico could make for a strong argument in favor of this alternative to conventional grid infrastructure. If Tesla can keep the lights on while the grid is down, it will show the effectiveness of battery packs and solar panels to provide power in emergency situations—something more relevant than ever after this year's destructive hurricane season.