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USACE sees marked increase in power grid materials arriving in Puerto Rico

By on December 29, 2017

SAN JUAN – In a piece published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE), the agency says its Task Force Power Restoration team continues to amass an increasing inventory of power grid materials for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane María.

Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines across the island and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with 342 substations, according to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority data. It is estimated that 80 percent of the grid was affected by María.

 A lay-down yard and warehouse in Ponce are being used to house the inventory of materials that is now flowing en masse to the island, including thousands of wooden, concrete and steel utility poles and hundreds of massive coils of heavy high tension wire. Smaller grid components, transformers, conductors, insulators and electric regulators are also among the items.

More than 3,000 pressure-treated utility poles at the lay-down yard in Ponce. (Screen capture of USACE; photo by Jerry Rogers)

Robert Govero, a USACE logistics management specialist working at the lay-down yard, is quoted saying that when the mission to restore the grid began, it took time to get the materials to the island.

“After scouring the nation to obtain needed quantities of grid components, the team has seen a marked increase in the amount of materials arriving to support the mission,” according to USACE.

The materials are shipped from Jacksonville, Fla., to the San Juan Port, where they are inventoried and off-loaded onto semi-trucks for delivery.

Tons of critical power grid materials arrive daily for housing at the Ponce warehouse. (Screen capture of USACE; photo by Jerry Rogers)

Once a request is received through the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), the warehouse team assembles the material request onto pallets for pick up, USACE explains.

“We maintain 100 percent accountability of every item, from the smallest electrical component to the 5,500-pound concrete utility pole, until it arrives at the delivery site, is stored and ultimately issued to the workforce,” Daniel Brown, TF Power Restoration bill of materials accountable officer, is quoted saying in the story.

Plans are underway to stand up a second lay-down yard in San Juan to speed delivery and make the process more efficient.

Hundreds of massive coils of heavy high tension wire arrive at the lay-down yard in Ponce. (Screen capture of USACE; photo by Jerry Rogers)

USACE Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen Todd T. Semonite, recently visited the team and spoke about their mission.

“We don’t do grids,” said Semonite. “The Department of Energy does grids.” However, the chief revealed that, “Eight days into the storm, while talking with the White House, the DOE said, ‘We aren’t going to be able to handle this. We are very, very good at when something goes wrong in Florida, we call up a bunch of states and they drive 800 pole trucks down. You flood Florida with pole trucks and you drive poles in and it all works out and it’s a lot more resilient.’”

“This was devastating,” Semonite added. “The nation’s toughest challenge: rebuild the grid in Puerto Rico…we [DOE] can’t figure that out. So Corps, step up and work it out.”

USACE estimates 75 percent of the island’s power grid is tracking to be online by the end of January; 95 percent by the end of February, and remaining remote sites completed by May.

USACE adds $265 million to Puerto Rico contract with Fluor Corp.

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