I knew I didn’t need my U.S. passport flying into San Juan, Puerto Rico, straight from Charlotte, N.C., but packed it anyway. Why? Honestly, I do take it on domestic trips here and there and Puerto Rico is a domestic destination, but with what feels like an international flair. Once touched down, I wasn’t disappointed.

There was a definite international feeling to the island, with friendly people who were trying to move on from last year’s Hurricane Maria, which tore through the island and devastated much of its infrastructure.

I flew out to San Juan in April 2018 to see how the recovery efforts were coming along after last year’s devastating hurricane season. Specially, I was joining a number of meeting planners on the trip to see where events could be held and how soon they might be able to happen!

It didn’t help that national media was reporting that the entire island of Puerto Rico was without power a few days before our trip, or at least it felt like that.

I have to admit that I kept checking my American Airlines app to see if my flights were still on. They were and on time! And, as I was told, the power outage was quickly overcome.

Power Outage Concerns? Not at the Puerto Rico Convention Center

Meeting and event planners may be reassured to learn the Puerto Rico Convention Center is not tethered to the island's electrical grid, however, using solar panels to help power the building. Installed about four years ago, there are about 20,000 solar panels on parking and building structures, including the convention center roof.

Puerto Rico Convention Center Aerial View

On a sunny day—of which there are many on the tropical island—the solar panels not only produce enough energy for the convention center to power fully off the grid, but they also can produce excess consumption.

This additional flow of power is sold to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

It is the largest solar energy project in Puerto Rico and is being used as a model for both the island and the Caribbean, noted Jorge Perez, general manager at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

On a rainy or cloudy day, Perez noted, the building goes back on the grid. And there are generators that are capable of powering the building in case of emergency, he assured.

Being off the grid doesn’t slow any of the events at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Attendees might not even notice—save for the solar panels themselves—where their energy is coming from.

The building can accommodate small meetings of 50 up to 20,000 people.

“We have capacities to convert our exhibit floor into EDM concerts and have a gala at our bar room for 5,000 to 6,000 people, so we are a very flexible building,” Perez said.

Check out Lori Tenny's Day 1 Puerto Rico coverage here.

Read more specifics on the Puerto Rico Convention Center's solar power system at Buildings.com.

Buildings is a sister publication of Meetings Today, published by Stamats Business Media.