Have you ever started planning a vacation to your favorite island only to discover that the resort or restaurant that drew you there in the first place is closed or no longer exists due to the latest hurricane? Saint Martin, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas … the list goes on. These islands are rebuilding and, as they do, they’re seeing how the resiliency and value of solar can improve life after the storm.
In 2014 our partner, Keith Freeman designed and installed a system for The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa on the island of St. Maarten. It was the first Westin hotel or resort in the world to implement the use of large scale solar.
Then just three years later Hurricane Irma came with such a ferocious wrath that 90% of buildings were damaged and 30% completely destroyed on this beautiful gem of an island. The eight hours of sustained wind and surges of water literally sucked the life out of The Westin, but the solar array unquestionably ‘weathered the storm’.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) recently released a report that focuses on “best practices for installing climate-resistant rooftop solar in high-wind regions.” Solar Under Storm Part II: Select Best Practices for Resilient Roof-Mount PV Systems with Hurricane Exposure
In addition to resilient rooftop solar, the islands are now incorporating battery storage and microgrids to be better prepared for the next event. These systems store energy and are self-sufficient, providing uninterrupted electrical service. And, having stayed in Charleston, SC during Hurricane Hugo, we know these systems are just as important in the eastern United States.
Disasters are inevitable, but at least being prepared gives us one advantage that no storm can take away.
*According to local guides, The Westin hotel is still under construction, with timeshares, pool and poolside bar open. When we visited in late 2019 we found beautiful new oceanfront restaurants and resorts thriving amongst the rebuilding efforts.