US ships mega generators to ease outages in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The governor of Puerto Rico announced Friday that the US government has shipped three mega generators to the island to help stabilize the US territory’s shaky power grid and minimize continuous interruptions.

The generators will add 150 megawatts of power and other generators that the United States is expected to ship soon will supply another 250 megawatts, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said.

Officials said crews will install the generators before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

“It’s the first step in a very, very complex process,” said Nancy Casper, coordinator of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA is paying for 90% of the project and the government of Puerto Rico the remaining 10% as part of a deal reached last year, but both Casper and Pierluisi said the full cost was not yet available because it would depend in part on the duration. some generators will work.

Puerto Rico only recently began permanent repairs to an aging power grid that was razed by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit the island in September 2017. Since then, power outages have become a common occurrence, disrupting the daily life of 3.2 million people on the island.

The federal government has earmarked about $12 billion, most of it for grid reconstruction, but just 18 permanent projects totaling $88 million had been completed as of early March, according to the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New Economy.

“At this rate, it would take more than 100 years to complete the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s power grid,” the center said in an analysis released Thursday.

The power grid was further weakened by Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm that struck southwest Puerto Rico in September 2022. It caused an island-wide blackout and caused more than $3 billion in damages. dollars to the crumbling electrical system.

“Temporary generation is critical,” Casper said of the new generators.

The temporary power surge will allow crews to take out substations, transformers and circuit breakers for repairs that could take 12 to 18 months.

Puerto Rico’s power grid was already shaky before Hurricane Maria hit, with officials blaming decades of mismanagement and neglect. Its generating units are on average 45 years old, twice that of the continental United States.

The grid’s ongoing problems come as the Puerto Rico Power Authority struggles to restructure more than $9 billion in debt, the largest of any government agency. A majority of creditors have yet to reach an agreement with a federal supervisory board that oversees the island’s finances despite six years of bitter negotiations.

In June 2020, the island’s power company privatized its transmission and distribution operations and, in January, announced it had selected a private company to operate and maintain its generating units.

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