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Architect Jonathan Marvel is redesigning Puerto Rico’s power grids (and communities) to make them hurricane-proof

For bringing power back to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and teaching locals how to finance, install, and service their own solar power hubs, Jonathan Marvel is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

Architect Jonathan Marvel is redesigning Puerto Rico’s power grids (and communities) to make them hurricane-proof
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]
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When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, in 2017, architect Jonathan Marvel, who was born on the island and now works in New York, saw an opportunity to rethink the island’s infrastructure. He cofounded Resilient Power Puerto Rico (RPPR), a nonprofit that has restored electricity to some of the poorest communities by taking advantage of the island’s abundant sun. RPPR built its first “solar hub” a month after the storm, and has since installed more than 30 at community centers. But instead of just donating solar panels and batteries, RPPR helped recruit and train locals to install them, created a tool kit that communities can use to plan and finance new solar hubs themselves, and set up water-treatment systems that run on the solar power. Marvel is now developing plans for resilient housing communities that can survive future storms better by not being grid reliant. Puerto Rico, he says, “could be an example for the rest of the planet on how to be completely independent, from an energy perspective.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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