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Puerto Rico Energy Commission drafting rules to install microgrids

By on October 13, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Energy Commission, regulator of the island’s public electric utility and energy industry, is developing rules to expedite the installation and implementation of microgrids to help restore the systems downed by Hurricane María.

The information was provided by Interim PREC Chairman José H. Román, who said that technical details are still being worked out.

Microgrids are groups of loads and distributed energy resources interconnected within a defined space, operating as a single controllable system in relation to the electrical network. These can be connected and disconnected from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) grid, which provides for operational flexibility. A 2016 law allowed for its use.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has said that he wants to transform the territory’s electrical grid by installing microgrids to avoid an islandwide blackout in the event the power grid collapses. He has been in talks with solar-power providers, including Tesla.


Microgrid equipment is seen in at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado in this screen capture of (Photo courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Lab)

He said he wants to rebuild the system as soon as possible and that he will let Prepa and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers know that rebuilding the system in six months is “unacceptable.”

This occurs is in the midst of a dispute between the UTIER, Prepa’s labor union, and the electric utility’s management regarding the reopening of the shuttered Palo Seco power plant, which was closed in August because of a technical report that found that its structure was too fragile.

La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario reaffirmed that Palo Seco will not be reopened because of safety problems highlighted by a report that, he said, will be made public. Prepa is using other methods to reconnect power plants.

Although the report allegedly stated that Palo Seco could not withstand winds of 60 miles per hour (mph), the plant withstood Hurricane María’s 160 mph winds Sept. 20, and the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym) said there are no excuses not to power the plant other than to “grant multimillion-dollar contracts to private companies.”

Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Román was not available to speak immediately about the matter, saying, “For the moment, the most important thing is to restore the electrical grid.”

Although Ramos had said early this week that Palo Seco will not be used under any circumstances, Prepa last year asked the Energy Commission for permission to install three 100-megawatt combined-cycle plants, a decision that was authorized through the Integrated Resource Plan. In addition, the commission ordered Prepa to shut down Palo Seco’s units 1 and 2. Commission reports noted that Palo Seco units 3 and 4 do not meet air emission standards.

None of the documents submitted to the commission by Prepa that were examined by Caribbean Business mention structural problems at Palo Seco.

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