$17.6bn plan to rebuild Puerto Rico includes vital role for decentralized energy

A $17.6 billion plan to rebuild and modernize Puerto Rico’s electric power system was released on 11 December and it includes significant investment in decentralized energy, particularly microgrids.

Prepared by more than a dozen entities, including the island’s electric power authority (PREPA), the 63-page plan calls for a decade-long series of projects and operational improvements. The plan is aimed at building an electric power s

Power lines down and flooding in aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

ystem capable of surviving an “upper Category 4 event” (250-kilometer-per-hour winds) and heavy flood waters.

The plan calls for a grid that can withstand 155 mph winds and heavy flooding, according to Spectrum.IEEE website.

Among projects mentioned for investment in the newly released Puerto Rico recovery and enhancement plan are modernizing the T&D system through smart grid investments to make the system less prone to extended outages and the deployment of control systems to enable distributed energy resource integration and encourage their development.

Hurricane Maria largely destroyed the island’s electric infrastructure in September. Work continues to restore electric power service knocked out by high winds and flooding.

Key elements of the plan were earlier shared with the Energywise blog in an interview with New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones. Much of the effort is modelled on New York’s response to the fall out from Hurricane Sandy.

It includes $5.3 billion for overhead and underground distribution lines; $4.9 billion for overhead and underground transmission lines; $1.7 billion for substation upgrades; $3.1 billion for generating assets; and nearly $1.5 billion for distributed energy resources.
A report released in November found that more than 472,000 housing units were destroyed and severely impacted by the storm. In addition, the island’s agricultural sector was almost entirely destroyed, including the loss of almost 80 percent of planted crops. Nearly all of the island’s water and wastewater assets also were disabled.

The electric modernization plan recommends that microgrids be deployed to make the system more resilient in the event of power outages and interruptions. It outlines a two-pronged approach.

In the first, hospitals, police and fire stations, emergency shelters, communications infrastructure, water treatment plants, airports, sea ports, and commercial and industrial centers would operate in isolation as microgrids and be ready to provide vital services immediately after a natural disaster. Technologies such as onsite backup generation, combined heat and power systems, rooftop solar, battery  storage, and building energy management systems would be capable of creating centers that can help in post-storm recovery.

The second approach calls for microgrids located in remote communities to remain disconnected from the larger grid and continue to provide electricity to critical infrastructure as well as grocery stores, gas stations, and community centers. The installation of solar, battery storage, feeder automation control systems, load control equipment, and similar technologies could allow these communities to more quickly recover from natural disasters. 

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