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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

LUMA announces transfer of 172,000-pound transformer for towns amid power crisis

The substation in Caguas’ Buen Pastor section presents a logistical challenge that requires communication and coordination with the Department of Transportation & Public Works and the support of the Bureau of Emergency Management & Disaster Administration and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Traffic Division.

By The Star Staff

LUMA Energy, the private operator of the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system, announced on Wednesday that it will install a new power transformer at the Santa Isabel substation to replace the one damaged on June 2.

The announcement comes amid protests and as pressure mounts for the government to cancel the contract with LUMA Energy because of constant power outages. Fermín Fontanés Gómez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority, which supervises the contract, is off the island.

The substation, which is located in the Buen Pastor area of Caguas, presents a logistical challenge that requires communication and coordination with the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) and the support of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD) and of the Traffic Division of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau.

Since Sunday night, teams from those agencies have collaborated with LUMA staff to determine the most appropriate route and transportation details, representing a logistical challenge. The transformer, which represents the permanent solution to stabilize the electrical system for the municipalities of Aibonito, Santa Isabel and Coamo, weighs over 172,000 pounds and measures more than 16 feet high and 9 feet wide.

Its transfer requires specialized equipment and its dimensions and weight must be considered to determine the fastest and safest way to transfer, LUMA said.

“The goal is to bring a permanent solution to our clients in the south, which is this transformer,” said José Reyes, LUMA’s main corporate services officer, who also leads emergency response in the company. “Therefore, we are in the best position to work hand in hand with the relevant agencies to complete the movement safely but with a sense of urgency for our clients.”

Based on the recommendations of logistics experts and to guarantee the most effective transfer, the plan that LUMA will submit for the evaluation and approval of DTOP, NMEAD and the Police Bureau includes using a barge to transport the transformer from the San Juan dock to the Ponce pier. Once the plan is approved, agencies will work with LUMA teams to ensure the safety of the public, employees, and the unit.

Transportation and Public Works Secretary Eileen M. Vélez Vega said “we have been talking since last weekend to address this situation.”

“Today we received the transportation plan and for this purpose the DTOP work team will be carrying out the required evaluation responsibly,” she said. “It is important to protect Puerto Rico’s transportation infrastructure and guarantee the safety of drivers.”

NMEAD), along with the Police Bureau and its Traffic Division and other public safety entities, would be coordinating the logistics and escort of the transformer during its journey over land.

“We are in talks to, once LUMA requests the permit from the DTOP and the secretary issues it, to follow the proposed route and coordinate security logistics,” NMEAD Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno said. “We are ready to provide all the support they need from the security agencies.”

Last Sunday, LUMA completed capacity increase work on line 4800 from Aibonito to Santa Isabel, which allowed the restoration of electrical service to the communities impacted by the transformer failure. In addition, in recent days, the company completed the interconnection of two temporary generators in Santa Isabel to cover energy demand during hours of high consumption. In the coming days, additional generators will be installed to act as a backup system while the transfer and energization of the replacement transformer is completed.

LUMA said its team continues to prepare the Santa Isabel substation for the arrival of the replacement transformer and maintains direct and constant communication with the mayors of Aibonito, Coamo and Santa Isabel.

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