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Generation unit in Aguirre complex back in service

Unit 2 of the Central Aguirre power complex in Salinas, Puerto Rico, is back in service after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) obligated a $29 million assignment for its repair.

The announcement was made following a visit by the executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), Manuel Laboy-Rivera; Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Executive Director Josué Colón; and Juan Rodríguez, vice president of capital programs at LUMA Energy, the electric utility’s private transmission and distribution operator. 

FEMA officials also visited the power plant to monitor several permanent works that are underway with estimated obligations amounting to about $69 million.     

“The reconstruction of the energy system in Puerto Rico continues its course and an example of this are the renovation works of the generation and transmission infrastructure that are being developed in the Aguirre power plant,” Laboy said. “During the visit, we were able to verify the work led there by Prepa and LUMA, aimed at renewing the equipment and facilities that will offer resilience and greater stability in the service customers receive. As part of the commitment made by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s administration, we recently made an advance of $31.7 million, an amount that was approved through a request made to the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program.”

Among the works that Prepa performed were repairs to units 1 and 2 of the Aguirre plant at an approximate cost of $20.9 million. Their repair will contribute to the island’s generation capacity and increase the grid’s resilience. 

For its part, LUMA is conducting field work to make way for phase 1 of the installation of $39 million worth of new protective equipment that will increase service reliability.

The utility’s director expressed “gratitude for the collaboration and work carried out by PREPA employees, together with FEMA and COR3, who have made it possible for PREPA to complete the repair works on Aguirre’s unit.”

“This base generation unit is essential for the supply of energy to customers and for the operational stability of the electrical system,” Colón said. “We were able to synchronize this unit in time to be able to complete other repairs currently in process before the start of the peak of the hurricane season.”

Colón noted that Aguirre’s Unit 2 was affected by Hurricane Fiona in September, and that synchronizing the unit quickly was a sought-after achievement. 

“On the other hand, we continue to work with the repair of Aguirre’s Unit 1, which suffered a major breakdown last August,” he added. “We hope to complete this repair before the start of the hurricane season and thus continue to increase the stability and resilience of the generation system.”

Finally, the official pointed out that the repair work carried out over the past year and a half with the help of federal funds has been crucial in stabilizing the generation system, given that the repaired units are already providing “resilience, reliability and swiftness to the electricity service.”

To date, some 170 permanent works are in the construction, design, design acquisition and construction phases, while some have been completed. The amount of disbursements under the emergency and permanent work categories is approaching $2.3 billion. This includes advances totaling $205 million through the WCA program.   

“LUMA is proud to continue working with FEMA and COR3 in our ongoing efforts to modernize over 300 substations around the island in order to increase service reliability for customers throughout Puerto Rico,” Rodríguez said. “The Aguirre substation project is one that will take several years and [various] phases, and the improvements being carried out in this substation represent a FEMA investment of $39 million, which will improve customer service in the southeast region. Our historic progress and our collaboration with FEMA are part of our ongoing work with our local and federal partners to build the next-generation electric system Puerto Rico deserves.”

Among the works completed by Prepa and LUMA are the repair of the Mayagüez power plant ($18.1 million); the purchase and installation of three mega generators and two water tanks at the Palo Seco power plant in Toa Baja ($62.6 million); the Transmission and Distribution Center in Manatí ($1.6 million); and the installation of pole and luminaire equipment in Utuado, Jayuya, Humacao and Aguas Buenas ($917,887).

For her part, the director of FEMA’s infrastructure division in Puerto Rico, Danna Planas-Ocasio, said that “the working team’s commitment to the island, dedicated to the recovery from Hurricane Maria is to continue providing the technical assistance and support that the government needs so that together we can continue accelerating the reconstruction of the island. So far, we have processed 78% of the energy projects that PREPA has submitted to us. The historic allocation of over $9.4 billion to Puerto Rico’s power grid is a sign that this work is a priority for FEMA.”

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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