Tesla to send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to restore power

(Reuters) - U.S. electric car and battery maker Tesla Inc’s CEO Elon Musk said on Friday the company will send more battery installers to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria knocked out all power on the island over two weeks ago.

The Tesla Powerwall battery storage device is advertised at the Tesla store in Sydney, Australia, March 13, 2017. Picture taken March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Musk also said in a tweet that he looked forward to talking to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello on Friday about what Tesla could do to help restore power.

“The internal Tesla Powerwall install team in (Puerto Rico) is very small right now. Sending experienced installers from continental U.S. to hire and train local team as fast as possible,” Elon Musk said in a tweet, referring to the company’s Powerwall battery system.

Tesla declined to comment further.

In late September, Tesla said it was sending hundreds of batteries that can store power generated by solar panels to Puerto Rico to provide emergency help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a very dangerous Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 155 miles per hour (249 km per hour), cutting off power to all 3.4 million residents on the island.

As of Thursday, Puerto Rico’s power company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), had restored power to only about 9 percent of the island’s electric customers.

In response to a request for help from Rossello on Thursday, Musk said in a tweet “I would be happy to talk. Hopefully, Tesla can be helpful.”

The governor said in a tweet to Musk “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your (Tesla technologies)? (Puerto Rico) could be that flagship project.”

Tesla has said it would pair batteries with solar panels to provide electricity without burning fossil fuels.

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk said in a tweet on Thursday.

“Such a decision would be in the hands of the (Puerto Rico government ... any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of (Puerto Rico),” Musk said.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Susan Thomas