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FEMA allocates $104M for 15 power grid projects in Puerto Rico

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved 15 electric generation, transmission, and distribution projects under its Accelerated Award’s Strategy program, known as FAASt, to repair Puerto Rico’s power grid, agency officials announced.

The projects aim to “kickstart what will become a more reliable electric grid for all Puerto Rico residents. In addition to these 15 projects, an architecture and cngineering project was approved in October 2021,” the agency noted.

“Today we are once again demonstrating that both federal and state government agencies, as well as the private sector, have a common purpose for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction to continue moving forward,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi during a news conference in San Juan to update on the work that has been slow going since Hurricane María crippled the island’s power grid in 2017.

“Teamwork is a priority for all of us, and together with FEMA, COR3, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA, we are on the road to a strong and resilient energy system for our island,” said Pierluisi, who last week was in Washington, D.C., and spoke with US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the reconstruction and resiliency of the electric grid.

“We continue to move ahead and speed up the pace of the remaining work, because the excellent relationship we have with federal government agencies is delivering results,” he said.

The historic amount of funds to rebuild the island’s power grid represents an opportunity to build back better, officials said.

Hazard mitigation is key as an additional measure to protect the federal investment. Likewise, this allows for the use of higher quality materials, among other planning measures that consider the risks associated with a future emergency.

“So far, we have approved an additional $9.2 million in mitigation funding for energy projects. All of those involved in this historic undertaking strive to ensure that Puerto Ricans have first-class electrical facilities. This will take time, but we are focused on the goal of an unprecedented recovery,” said FEMA’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.

Two projects that stand out in this group are for the Aguirre power plant facility, which is part of PREPA’s generation system. More than $13.4 million in approved funds will go toward installing filtration equipment for the wastewater treatment system as well as for the water pump condenser. They help increase energy production and are essential elements for a more reliable grid, officials said.

“Currently, the repair of the Mayagüez and Aguirre power plants in Salinas are on track. Meanwhile, the public lighting projects are about to begin, which include the replacement of public light poles, photocells, luminaries, and other components,” said Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3) Executive Director Manuel Laboy.

“These projects have an estimated cost of $90.7 million. At COR3, we are committed to continue being facilitators in this process that will improve the quality of service and provide resilience to critical infrastructure,” he said.

In addition to the FAASt projects, another $8.7 million was awarded for PREPA’s Costa Sur facility to address damage caused by the 2020 earthquakes. Reconstruction at the site is almost complete, which has the capacity to generate about one third of the island’s power.

“PREPA’s  mission is to provide electricity service in the most efficient, safe, affordable, reliable, environmentally friendly and responsive manner to the needs of our customers. In keeping with this mission, we are carrying out an aggressive and transformative repair program for the entire generation fleet, which amounts to approximately $1.5 billion and will increase the reliable availability of our most economic generating units, considerably reducing the probability of blackouts due to lack of generation and the use of less cost-effective units,” said PREPA Executive Director Josué A. Colón.

As for projects related to the transmission and distribution system, managed by LUM Energy, funds were recently approved to repair distribution feeders in Caguas and Ponce. Both systems transfer energy to businesses, homes, and other facilities. Moreover, FEMA assigned funds for work at the Manatí substation to replace circuit breakers and other equipment that help prevent short circuits and other hazards that cause service interruptions.

In addition, a federal share of more than $20.9 million was approved to modernize and strengthen the Cataño substation, which includes $6.8 million for mitigation activities to prevent similar damage from occurring in the future.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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