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Tesla Turns Power Back On At Children's Hospital In Puerto Rico

Weeks after Tesla founder Elon Musk and Gov. Ricardo Rossello spoke about the tech company aiding Puerto Rico, Tesla says it has restored electricity to a children's hospital, using solar energy and batteries.

Tesla has used its solar panels and batteries to restore reliable electricity at San Juan's Hospital del Niño (Children's Hospital), in what company founder Elon Musk calls "the first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico."

The project came about after Puerto Rico was hit by two devastating and powerful hurricanes in September, and Musk reached out about Tesla helping.

Musk's company announced its success in getting the hospital's power working again less than three weeks after Puerto Rico's Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted on Oct. 6, "Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight. Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities."

Tesla's image of the project's solar array, in a parking lot next to the hospital, has been liked more than 84,000 times since it was posted to Instagram Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that some of his company's work is being rerouted so it could "increase battery production for Puerto Rico & other affected areas."

The hospital's new system allows it to generate all the energy it needs, according to El Nuevo Dia. The facility has 35 permanent residents with chronic conditions; it also offers services to some 3,000 young patients, the newspaper says. As for who's paying for the power system, the head of the hospital tells Nuevo Dia that for now, it's a donation — and that after the energy crisis is over, a deal could make it permanent.

Both Rossello and the tech company tweeted about the project this week, with Tesla saying in a post, "Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with @ricardorossello" — and Rossello stating, "A major contribution of @Tesla to the Hospital del Niño."

The news of restoring permanent power at the hospital comes as millions of people in Puerto Rico continue to rely on generators for electricity. As of Wednesday morning, the Electric Power Authority, or AEE, reported that its power service was now at 25 percent.

The task of rebuilding Puerto Rico's power grid is expected to take months, and to cost as much as $5 billion.

Last week, the territory's electric and power authority signed a $300 million contract with Whitefish, a small and relatively young Montana company, to restore the power grid. The deal has sparked scrutiny and skepticism, as NPR's Laurel Wamsley and Nicky Ouellet of Montana Public Radio reported.

Tesla isn't the only tech company trying to help Puerto Rico; Google's parent company, Alphabet, has deployed balloons from its Project Loon to the territory, to help parts of the island reconnect after much of its phone system went down. The portable network can help phone users with both messaging and some web browsing.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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