Puerto Rico Experience

ENER 37002 - Puerto Rico: Road Map to a Renewable Future (1-credit, S/U)

Course Description:

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the island’s energy infrastructure was destroyed. The lack of electricity in rural areas for months following the storm contributed to thousands of post-hurricane deaths. As the island continues the struggle for reliable power, there are calls for replacing the fossil-fuel based centralized grid with renewable microgrids, making use of abundant solar, wind, and water resources. This seminar will explore the complications of such a seemingly simple solution.

ENER 37002 consists of six weekly classes and a spring break immersion in Puerto Rico. Students will learn about the opportunities and challenges that exist when communities attempt to reduce their carbon footprint. Topics will include technological challenges along with economic, political, historical, and ethical considerations unique to Puerto Rico.

In weekly classes before the trip, participants will meet with members of the Puerto Rican diaspora; review a non-technical survey of energy options and the social and economic ramifications of each; and examine their own lifestyles in regard to choices made on a daily basis that affect the environment.

The week on the island will be split between San Juan and the mountain town of Adjuntas. The main goal will be to gain insights from those caught in the struggle for energy equity; the hard choices they must make; and the complicated, sometimes messy path they are trying to forge. In Adjuntas, students will engage with the staff of an award-winning community center, Casa Pueblo. This organization, led by Arturo Massol Deyá and his father Alexis Massol Gonzalez, has united much of the community around environmental stewardship. Other learning opportunities will include visits to historical and cultural sites, interactions with local college and elementary students, a solar installation, and conversations with community leaders in San Juan and Adjuntas.

This seminar may count as the experience for completion of the Energy Studies Minor capstone requirement.

For more details, read the syllabus for Spring 2022. 

Course Enrollment and Online Application:

Only a small number of students will be selected to participate in this course. ND Energy pays all expenses. Any undergraduate may apply although preference will be given to energy studies minors. The application process for Spring 2023 will begin in October.

For More Information

The following story introduces the ENER 37002 capstone course and the inaugural group of students who traveled to Puerto Rico and experienced what it's like to navigate the political, cultural, and technological challenges of implementing renewable energy. Other details can be viewed in the Fall 2019 Post-trip Summary. For questions or more information, contact Anne Berges Pillai.

Navigating the Road to Renewable Energy