Planned $300 million PROtech facility in Yabucoa is paralyzed
By The Star Staff
The proposed $300 million Puerto Rico Ocean Technology Complex (PROtech), a government-led plan to establish a major thermal ocean energy plant and industrial park in Yabucoa, is paralyzed, Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel Cidre Miranda said.
Cidre said the consortium between WSP USA Building Inc. and Puerto Rican architectural firm Marvel Architects dropped out of the project in July, citing several grievances centering on uncertainties and lack of clear energy policies.
WSP USA Building Inc. and Marvel Architects had been selected by DDEC in December 2020, just seven months before, to develop the ambitious project.
PROTech was slated to be the first of a number of projects to enable Puerto Rico to advance and invest in ocean-related industries and to create the technologies required to adapt to the transition from conventional energy and fuels.
The complex was slated to have a number of uses, most of them related to deep seawater industries and sustainable strategies. Besides an ocean thermal energy conversion plant, the proposed park was slated to have aquaculture and micro-algae cultivation. PROTech was also slated to provide an opportunity for ecosystem research, both for the academy and private institutions, a recreational, cultural and commercial center, as well as a hospital institution, among others.
The development was promoted by former DDEC Secretary Manuel Laboy Rivera, and Cidre had agreed to move it forward.
After the developers were contracted in December, DDEC moved to the next phase, which was to obtain land through a lease with the Puerto Rico Land Authority.
Cidre said that by July 22 the Land Authority had not received certain documentation it needed from the private developers.
“That day I received a letter from the private developers informing me they were dropping out of the project,” Cidre said.
The DDEC secretary said PROtech is not dead.
Cidre said he has his staff taking a second look at the proposed project to make it more cost effective. The ocean thermal energy plant was expected to complement the redevelopment of the lands of the former U.S. Naval Base Roosevelt Roads at the eastern end of the island.
“I think this project is interesting, but we have to see how we can make it cost effective,” he said.
After DDEC finishes its analysis of the project, Cidre said he plans to issue a “request for interest” to determine the market’s appetite to develop an ambitious project like PROtech, followed by a request for proposals.
Cidre said Laboy had informed him that the project had private financing, but he declined to say who was providing it. DDEC’s role is to provide tax incentives.
“Laboy said it had private financing, but it is my job to examine its feasibility and whether we will have a return of investment,” Cidre said.