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Puerto Rico gov’t, FEMA announce arrival of 3 mega generators

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Coordinator Nancy Casper have announced the arrival of the first electric power generators sourced t help stabilize the island’s grid during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

The first three newly arrived large-capacity generators will provide 150 megawatts (MW) and will be installed at the Central Palo Seco power complex in Toa Baja. Several mega generators will be eventually be deployed to supply a total of 350 MW, according to the governor’s office, La Fortaleza. The additional generation is expected to increase the capacity to provide electricity service and reduce unforeseen blackouts due to lack of generation or problems with the plants, especially during the hurricane season. FEMA will cover 90% of the cost, with the remaining 10% being covered by the island’s government.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and more recently Hurricane Fiona last September, the government of Puerto Rico requested FEMA’s assistance with the reconstruction of the electric grid, improvements to generation plants and the implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects. In response to the request, FEMA established the Working Group for the Stabilization of the Puerto Rico Electric System in November. The group consists of FEMA, the federal Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Environmental Protection Agency. Their goal is to have these units operational at the peak of the hurricane season.

Pierluisi thanked the federal government’s support, including FEMA’s working group, which proposed short-term actions to temporarily increase generation capacity, as well as to improve the transmission and distribution system, as well as initiatives led by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who has visited the island on at least three occasions. In her last visit, she stayed for a week in February, and discussed the next steps for allocating the $1 billion Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund administered by her department’s Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team.  

The governor emphasized that provisional generation capacity is essential to reduce the risk of unforeseen power outages and complement reserve generation capacity. These actions will support ongoing repairs to the existing electrical system, which will set the conditions for a “successful transition to renewable energy infrastructure,” reads a news release issued by Pierluisi’s office.

“Both actions contribute to the ultimate goal of building a stable electrical system in Puerto Rico in support of PR100, a long-term renewable energy plan that proposes the transition of Puerto Rico to a grid that works with 100% renewable energy sources or alternatives by 2050,” the release added in reference to a U.S. Department of Energy report funded by FEMA that analyzed potential pathways to help the island meet its ambitious energy policy goal. 

The purchasing and contracting process is being handled by USACE. New Fortress Energy Inc. announced that its Puerto Rico subsidiaries, NFE Power PR LLC and NFEnergia LLC, have entered into agreements with Weston Solution Inc. for the installation and operation of the 150 MW of additional generation at the Palo Seco plant, as well as the supply of natural gas.

Weston won a task order to supply the temporary power generation to support the Puerto Rico grid’s stabilization at the Palo Seco complex under its USACE Omaha Rapid Disaster Infrastructure contract. The 150 MW of dual-fuel generators are expected to enable maintenance and repair work on the island’s power system and grid.

“We are pleased to partner with Weston and support this critical mission to improve grid stability in Puerto Rico,” said Wes Edens, chairman and CEO of New Fortress Energy. “The federal government is providing much-needed resources to Puerto Rico’s recovery and this project will help enable the transition to a cleaner, more affordable and reliable energy system.”

A request for proposals has already been issued for installing the next generators to arrive.

The Associated Press reported that the total cost of the project is currently unknown and will depend on the length of time that the generators are operational, and added that the federal government has allocated $12 billion for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s grid, but as of early March, only 18 permanent projects totaling $88 million have been completed, according to the Center for a New Economy, a nonpartisan think tank, which said in a recent report that, “at this pace, it would take over 100 years to complete the reconstruction of the Puerto Rico electric grid.” 

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

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