Puerto Rico electric utility sets up generators to power island quickly
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Director Ricardo Ramos announced Friday that his strategy to provide electric power to the island as soon as possible will consist of using generators to temporarily service areas where more-complicated repair work is needed after Hurricane María destroyed the island’s grid.
“It’s like having five authorities within [Prepa], but we are not interconnected,” he explained.
Generators will be placed in an area of the Palo Seco substation to support generation in the north, but others will be located in other substations. These plants will use diesel fuel.
In a separate press conference, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said his strategy to power the island consisted primarily in bringing generators while different areas get service, and consider transmission and distribution alternatives, such as so-called microgrids, or localized electric grids that don’t depend on centralized power service.
“That’s exactly the plan,” Ramos said. He explained that power generation is in the south and energy demand or consumption toward the north, but transmission lines are down as a result of the Hurricane María last week. Small plants would function as micro-networks because their energy would be transmitted using distribution.
By Monday or Tuesday, there will be about 600 people from the mainland to provide reinforcement to the brigades of retired utility employees and other contractors who are fixing the grid with such efforts as lifting utility poles, repairing towers and connecting power lines. “They are not military but operate in a military-like fashion; they set up camp [and are] all about construction,” Ramos said.
Week after week, the work will be evaluated to determine if more resources are needed. “The supply of aid is overly generous and we are very grateful,” he said.
Ramos also said work is being focused on large transmission line restoration projects, such as the eastern 230,000-volt loop, which is completely down.
Only 5 percent of Prepa’s customers have had their service restored, and the governor implied it will take a long time before power to the island is fully restored, which is why other mechanisms to quickly supply energy are being sought.
Ramos said some 15 hospitals are back to using Prepa-supplied power, as are the piers, the San Juan Police headquarters, some low-income housing complexes and the urban center of Mayagüez. He assured that his goal is to power the country in less than six months despite the fact that there are 4,500 fewer employees less than only two years ago. The Miramar Convention Center, where the Government Command Center is located, was expected to get connected to the grid Friday.
Rosselló stressed that he is envisaging different ways of modernizing the island’s power system, in addition to the microgrids, because it will not be possible to quickly rebuild the transmission and distribution lines immediately
“I don’t want to commit to any one alternative. We are thinking of using microgrids,” the governor said.
Regarding media reports that Cuba offered to help provide electric power to the island, the Public Affairs secretary said he was not aware of the offer, but “we would gladly welcome any help.”