Strengthening the Power Grid of Puerto Rico

On Monday, a working group comprised of a variety of governmental and industry representatives issued a report, Build Back Better: Reimagining and Strengthening the Power Grid of Puerto Rico.  Prepared for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and FEMA Administrator William Long, the report looks at damage to the power system caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and proposes rebuild recommendations to strengthen the grid.   

The devastating damage from wind and flooding during the hurricanes resulted in the longest power outage in U.S. history.  Only 15% of transmission lines are built to mid-Category 4 criteria, and narrow rights-of-way, steep hills, and muddy slopes impede access for repairs.  The distribution system was not originally designed to a Category 4 standard and has limited redundancy or automation that can provide aid in the restoration of service.  Substations and generation were also hit hard.

The report looks at resiliency and hardening measures that will increase Puerto Rico’s power system’s ability to withstand future storms, suggesting the incorporation of certain modern grid technology and distributed energy resources (DER).  For example, hardening of substations would include flood barriers and high capacity pumps, as well as individual protection for stand-by generators and control buildings as a backup form of defense for critical equipment.

DER can build resilience and reduce fossil fuel imports.  Puerto Rico has about 157 MW of installed distributed solar PV projects.  DER can help remote communities, in particular, restore power faster in the future.  The report states that about 470,000 homes need to be rebuilt or undergo major repair following the hurricanes, providing an opportunity to incorporate energy efficiency and solar technologies.

The report proposes a 7- to 10-year implementation roadmap for the recommended activities.

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