Monday, February 24, 2020 - 6:47am

The City of Madison Engineering Division’s Master Electrician Matt Parks and local partnering organizations are starting the week in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico to teach community members how to install solar and other related skills.
The community is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. Parks will return March 3, 2020.

“These trips are life changing, not only for the Toa Baja community. Through hands-on workshops, City staff and technical college electrical trainee’s learn new skills. They install solar electric systems on community buildings, learning while they work,” Parks said. “Seeing people learn and become excited about solar is exciting. Through these trips, we strengthen the friendship between our two cities, and we feel like we’re making an impact now and into the future.”

This trip is an extension of the City of Madison Engineering Division’s GreenPower program, which started as a pilot program in 2016 in the City of Madison. Through the program, trainees with little or no prior electrical skills, learn how to install solar arrays or (Photovoltaic arrays). The GreenPower trainees install solar on City of Madison facilities to help the City meet its initial goal of 1 Megawatt of self-generated renewable energy by 2020.

“I am very proud of our partnership with Toa Baja and happy to continue to support this important work,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “We are focused on meeting our renewable energy goals in Madison and on helping other cities adopt this critical technology.”

Toa Baja Trip 2019

This is Park’s second trip to Toa Baja representing the City. Last year, Parks and two other electricians from partnering organizations, traveled to Toa Baja to build an 8.4 kW solar array at the Canderlaria Community Center.

This year, Parks will return to install a battery bank and battery based inverter on the Canderlaria Community Center. This will make sure the community will have power even when there is no electricity, or the electrical grid is down. The City is working with the Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez García on this project. Mayor García chose the Canderlaria Community Center to install the system because it is used as a temporary disaster relief shelter and holds emergency supplies. The building is built high enough to have stayed safe from the flooding that damaged Toa Baja following Hurricane Maria, which was a Category 5 hurricane that devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in September 2017. The solar power will also reduce operating costs of the building. The building will have battery and solar power back-up in case of an emergency.

While in Toa Baja, Parks, Nick Matthes (of the MREA), and Craig Buttke, of CBI, Inc., will also run the next GreenPower workshop to teach partners at the City of Toa Baja and local technical college to install a 7 kW system on the Toa Baja municipal police department. The police department was without power for nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, and their backup generator did not work. Parks will teach the team to install the battery backup, which will have 14 kWh of energy storage and a 7 kW PV system that will keep the battery bank charged when there is no electricity. This will supply critical communications during an emergency. 

Couillard Solar Foundation donated the following materials: multimode inverter, batteries and modules. Ecolibrium Solar donated the racking system.

Matt Parks (City of Madison), Nick Matthes, of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, and Craig Buttke, of Solar CBI, Inc., will be conducting the workshop. The City of Madison is funding Park’s time on the project as well as travel expenses.


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