The U.S. Department of Energy has identified 200 potential microgrid sites in Puerto Rico, as part of an effort to rebuild and modernize the island’s devastated electricity system.
Bruce Walker, assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, described the microgrid sites in a blog he posted last week on the DOE’s website.
Together, the sites represent 11 MW of capacity. The microgrids would serve key locations, such as water treatment plants and hospitals, according to Walker, who spent two weeks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to help with power restoration efforts.
In addition, the DOE is investigating 400 other potential microgrid sites on the island, and foresees microgrid opportunities on the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well.
The microgrid assessment is part of a larger power restoration effort by the DOE, the government of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in partnership with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), industry and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
“The challenges are many. Deploying line crews and equipment to Puerto Rico and the USVI is more complicated than doing so on the mainland. The mountainous terrain of Puerto Rico also presents a challenge. So does the amount of fiber optics on the electric poles, which increased wind shear, and caused more damage to them. Some 18 electrical substations were inundated by water, three of which were unable to be re-energized due to the severe damage,” he wrote.
In addition to installing microgrids, the restoration teams are exploring modern relay protection of the key substations, predictive modeling with improved sensing capabilities, and hardened control devices, according to Walker.
About 46.6 percent of peak load has been restored and 57 of 78 municipalities have at least some electrification, according to a separate DOE report. This is a decrease from November 15 when 50 percent of customers were receiving electric service. A fault on a 230-kV transmission line caused the setback.
Puerto Rico experienced a near total blackout after Hurricane Maria battered the island on September 20.
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