Nearly 1,500 additional grid repair workers headed to Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Eighteen member companies of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) industry trade group will send nearly 1,500 grid-restoration workers and support personnel to Puerto Rico in January to accelerate power restoration efforts across the island.
On Wednesday, nearly 100 days after Hurricane María hit the island, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) was generating 69.8% power when compared with the same period last year. The percentage does not represent the number of customers with service, whose exact figure is unknown and is estimated to be much lower.
Much of Puerto Rico’s electric grid is located in mountainous terrain that became even harder to access after the major hurricane’s impact.
In late October, the EEI and the American Public Power Association (APPA) received a request from Prepa to support grid rebuilding efforts. In early November, the island’s public power utility also requested aid from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in the form of “technical expertise, materials, equipment, and resources.”
The new personnel will work under the direction of seven incident management teams (IMTs) that were deployed on Dec. 10 to support Prepa’s regional directors, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in completing a damage assessment of the energy grid “to develop an updated and more closely coordinated restoration plan,” according to a release by the EEI, which represents U.S. investor-owned electric companies.
“Completing the damage assessments allowed us to identify the types of additional human and equipment resources that we need. As part of this mutual assistance deployment, hundreds of trucks with tools and equipment will be loaded on ships this week and barged to Puerto Rico, and our goal is for the nearly 1,500 mutual assistance crews from the mainland to arrive on the island by January 12,” added Carlos Torres, the island’s power restoration coordinator.
With the new arrivals, the total number of power restoration workers on the island will increase to more than 5,500, the EEI said, including Prepa’s own crews, a contingent of crews from New York who are working as part of an intergovernmental agreement and crews mobilized under USACE contracts.
“The incident management teams on the island already have enhanced PREPA’s organizational structure and management and logistics capabilities so that PREPA is ready to put these additional line workers and support personnel to work as soon as they arrive,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said in the statement.
A few stateside utilities have made formal announcements that include some details about the part they will play in their mutual aid and assistance.
PPL Electric Utilities began moving its trucks and equipment Tuesday to send repair crews to help restore power knocked out by María. Line trucks and other repair vehicles were being loaded on trucks for transport to Norfolk, Va., where they will be placed on a barge later this week.
Thirty-seven linemen and support workers have volunteered to be deployed in the first wave “of what could be a months-long assignment. After 30 days, other PPL workers will travel to the island to relieve the first group.”
PPL workers have been tasked with restoring power in the Caguas region, which was among the hardest-hit.
“Many PPL employees and customers have family or friends who are affected by the widespread power outages in Puerto Rico. This is a humanitarian mission as much as it is a power restoration mission,” Greg Dudkin, PPL Electric Utilities president, said in the utility’s announcement.
Also sending crews are PPL’s sister utilities, Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities.
CenterPoint Energy Inc.’s electric utility, meanwhile, is sending 68 employees for about six weeks to assist in the grid restoration process.
“While we’ve participated in many mutual assistance trips, it is unprecedented for us to put our equipment, bucket trucks and electric supplies on a barge that will take two weeks to arrive on the island. We are fully committed to restoring power to Puerto Rico as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Ed Scott, director of operations for CenterPoint Energy.
The first shift of 68 Houston-based CenterPoint Energy employees will fly to Puerto Rico on Jan. 13 and start working 16-hour shifts on Jan. 15. The company said it is making plans to send at least one additional shift.
“This restoration mission will be more difficult than any other we have worked on, but our crews are prepared to work long hours safely, facing the logistical and geographical challenges accompanying the historic damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure,” Scott added.
Oncor Electric Delivery Co. will also be load “nearly six dozen trucks on barges headed to Puerto Rico, and 80 employees will meet the equipment there next month,” according to Dallas News.
Dominion Energy Virginia, a large energy producer and transporter, announced it is preparing to send 82 workers and 56 pieces of equipment and restoration vehicles to San Juan on Jan. 2 to assist for at least a month.
“An advance team of safety and logistics specialists, leadership and others” will depart on Jan. 10, according to its release. “The remaining contingent, including linemen, groundmen, other restoration workers and support personnel are scheduled to follow and begin restoration work on January 15.”
Also, Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. is sending some 80 workers–about 50 linemen and 30 additional people, including mechanics, damage assessors and engineers, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Meanwhile, St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. is sending “nearly 75 line workers and additional support personnel as part of this effort,” through its Missouri and Illinois utility subsidiaries, to work in the island’s Carolina region.
Equipment, including trucks and trailers, will roll out from St. Louis and Maryville, Illinois to Norfolk, Virginia, where it will be loaded on a barge along with supplies and resources from other stateside utilities.
Florida Power & Light Co. announced 140 company lineworkers and support staff will help restore power to the region of Bayamón.
“With so many of our customers and employees having family and other connections to Puerto Rico, we feel a responsibility to help get the lights back on,” Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL, said in a news release. “Our lineworkers and staff are battle-tested, having just completed the unprecedented restoration of more than 4.4 million FPL customers in the wake of Hurricane Irma. I have no doubt that our most-experienced lineworkers – working hand-in-hand with our leadership team – will hit the ground running to help restoring service safely and as quickly as possible.”
FPL coordinated the delivery of thousands of power line poles and other equipment to Puerto Rico and accompanied Florida Gov. Rick Scott to the island in November. Since that time, FPL leadership has remained in Puerto Rico where it has been providing technical expertise and guidance to support the restoration effort.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, one of the largest energy holding companies in the United States, is sending more than 200 employees–along with trucks, equipment and supplies–and are scheduled to begin restoration efforts by Jan. 15.
The company previously sent a contingent of 100 contract line workers to support recovery efforts.
Some 60 Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group Inc. employees are expected by Jan. 11 to help restore power. Trucks and equipment are being delivered to Jacksonville, Fla., to be loaded onto a barge headed for the island, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports.