POWER December 2021 - 12

GLOBAL MONITOR
Businesses Using Microgrids to
Ensure Power in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico continues to struggle with
its power supply, with the island's aging
electricity infrastructure contributing
to continued blackouts and reliability
issues more than four years after hurricanes
Irma and Maria kicked off a series
of devastating major hurricanes and
tropical storms that have battered the
U.S. territory. Ongoing issues with the
supply of electricity have repeatedly left
tens of thousands of the island's residents
and businesses without power,
and have led to protests against LUMA
Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric
Power Authority (PREPA), the two entities
in charge of the territory's power
supply. Both those groups have said
they are not able to generate enough
electricity to meet demand, citing continued
problems with maintenance of
the power grid and other events that
have contributed to outages. PREPA,
a public corporation, contracted with
LUMA-a private company-this past
summer, hiring the group to manage
the island's electric transmission and
distribution system.
The power providers also drew ire
with a recent request to increase the
price of electricity for customers, the
fourth such increase this year, in a
country where government data shows
almost 44% of the Puerto Rican population
lives in poverty. Puerto Rico residents
reportedly pay about 21.4 cents
per kilowatt-hour for electricity, or more
than double the average rate for electricity
customers in Texas. It's prompted
the island's power customers, both
residential and business, to search for
more cost-effective solutions. The Solar
& Energy Storage Association of Puerto
Rico recently said about 30,000 island
homes and businesses have installed a
combined 150 MW of solar and backup
battery systems; the group said twothirds
of those systems have been
installed by Houston, Texas-based Sunnova
Energy, which was the first company
to offer solar power as a service
on the island.
Other companies have launched projects
in Puerto Rico in recent years, installations
designed to support new power
generation sources as the island remains
challenged in trying to rebuild its power
grid. Eaton, a global power management
company doing business in more
than 175 countries, and Enel X, the Enel
Group's advanced energy services business
line, recently announced plans for a
12
second joint microgrid project in Puerto
Rico, part of a wave of microgrid installations
that have come online on the island
in recent years. The companies said the
projects will reduce demand on regional
energy infrastructure, and enable Eaton
to power more of its own operations on
the island with renewable resources,
while also increasing energy resilience.
The newest joint project is a solar-plusstorage
microgrid at Eaton's Las Piedras
facility, where the company manufactures
residential circuit breakers.
Craig Gob, vice president and general
manager of the Electrical Engineering &
Systems division for Eaton, told POWER,
" I think 2017 was quite different in the
fact that the length of the outages has
really created for Eaton and other companies
like ours, just some unique challenges.
Most companies that are used
to operating on the island tend to have
some backup power supply, but if you
go back to 2017, the ability to get fuel for
your backup system was suddenly challenged.
That was probably a turning point
for us, and we definitely saw the writing
on the wall with regard to the grid infrastructure
there. " Gob said as solar and
battery energy storage became more
affordable- " along with our learnings
from 2017 " -it prompted Eaton " down
the path " for the microgrid solution for
its manufacturing plants.
Brian Brickhouse, president of Eaton's
Electrical Sector, Americas region, said,
" The increasing frequency and impact
of climate emergencies underscore the
need for far more sustainable and resilient
power. Around the world, we're
applying our 'Everything as a Grid' approach
to strengthen operations with
low-carbon energy sources and the ability
to withstand extreme weather emergencies.
With our partner Enel X, we
established a replicable energy-as-a-service
model that exemplifies how to keep
the power on-no matter what. "
The Eaton-Enel X projects in Puerto
Rico are designed to withstand Category
5 hurricanes, the same intensity as Irma
and Maria in 2017 (Figure 3), storms that
arrived two weeks apart in September of
that year and essentially destroyed the
island's entire power grid. The slow pace
of repairs to aging baseload power plants
led the embattled PREPA-already in
poor financial condition prior to the 2017
storms-in October of this year to say
the island's power system is in a " state
of emergency. " Josue Colon, PREPA's executive
director, said the island's power
units are in " critical condition, " and said
www.powermag.com
3. Workers make repairs to electric power
infrastructure in Puerto Rico after Hurricane
Maria in 2017. Damage to the island's transmission
and distribution network, and the
slow pace of power restoration after recent
storms and continued problems with blackouts,
has prompted businesses in Puerto Rico
to design their own microgrids to support the
reliability of the power supply. Source: Army
Corps of Engineers
an emergency designation would help
expedite " the acquisition of needed
goods and services. "
Some 97% of the island's power
generation comes from imports of coal,
petroleum, and liquefied natural gas. A
PREPA report in early October says less
than 40% of the agency's 4,714 MW of
power generation capacity was online
as of Oct. 3, and says generation from
hydropower was at just 22% of installed
capacity. Fernando Gil, president of
PREPA's governing board, on Oct. 6 told
the U.S. House Committee on Natural
Resources that the agency's youngest
baseload power unit is 25 years old. Gil
said that on average, the group's power
plants are 40 years old. " PREPA's generation
fleet is old, outmoded, inefficient,
and expensive to run, " he said.
Matt Barnes, director of business development
for Enel X, told POWER his
group is hearing requests from businesses
for " resiliency ... and more and more
recently, as you've got the increasing
frequency of extreme weather, whether
that's heat or cold, or hurricanes and
storms ... after those events is not necessarily
the best time to solve [the problem],
but you've got to start those conversations. "
He continued: " Maria was really
a wakeup call, and it's taken some time
to solve that, but we've worked collaboratively
with Eaton and a local team to
put together these solutions that we're
seeing now come to fruition. "
The solar-plus-storage
microgrid
at
the Las Piedras manufacturing facility
will integrate nearly 5 MW of solar photovoltaic
and about 1.1 MW/2.2 MWh of
battery storage into the facility's onsite
power generation systems. Eaton's other
microgrid at a manufacturing site on
the island is at the company's Arecibo faPOWER
| December 2021
http://www.powermag.com

POWER December 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of POWER December 2021

POWER December 2021 - Cover1
POWER December 2021 - Cover2
POWER December 2021 - 1
POWER December 2021 - 2
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POWER December 2021 - SCover1
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POWER December 2021 - S1
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