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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

PREPA gets regulator’s approval to spend $300m in hydroelectric plants

Caonillas Plant in Utuado.

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority will upgrade and fix 16 hydroelectric power plants after approval by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau at a cost of over $300 million.

Through a September 28 Motion, PREPA submitted PREPA’s Hydroelectric Fleet Application Package which includes the proposed mitigation activities to retrofit and upgrade 16 hydroelectric plants.

The project if approved, would be covered under the 2021 Puerto Rico State Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, and will include the hydroelectric plants: Caonillas 1 and 2; Carite 1, 2 and 3; Dos Bocas; Garzas 1 and 2; Isabela 1, 2 and 3; Rio Blanco; Toro Negro 1 and 2; Yauco 1 and 2, according to a motion.

The project objectives are to increase the capacity factor of each hydroelectric plant, to increase the contribution of hydroelectric generation to the grid, and to support Puerto Rico’s clean energy transition. PREPA stated that hydroelectric contributes significantly to the avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions, to the mitigation of global warming and to the energy supply security; and that compared to conventional coal power plants, hydroelectric prevents the emission of about 3 GT C02 per year, which represents about 9% of global annual C02 emissions.

Most of the hydroelectric plants were built between the years 1920’s to 1950’s with a total design capacity of over 120 MW.

“The project proposes to increase the capacity factor of each plant by common facility upgrades that include, but not limited to, mechanical and electrical systems, generators, turbines and controls, penstock (pipes and/or channels), water conveyance, transmission and communication, governors (speed and power controllers), flood control and drainage systems. Also, the project proposes a full retrofit of its structures that includes a wind retrofit of each window, doors, and roofs,” the document reads.

PREPA is proposing to do the project in phases. Phase one is expected to take 40 weeks and is estimated at $33 million. Phase two of the project will be focused on any additional procurement and final design activities, consultation with agencies, construction activities at all hydroelectric plants, including demolition and removal of equipment as needed, fabrication and installation of wind retrofit and upgraded equipment, electrical works, commissioning, testing and inspections among other works. The duration of Phase two is expected to take 116 weeks and is estimated at $287.7 million. The total cost of the project for Phase One and Phase Two is estimated to be $320.7 million based on PREPA’s existing reports and means.

PREPA states that all deliverables from Phase one will be submitted to COR3 and FEMA for review and approval and once approved, Phase two will begin. The project is aligned with the goal of repairing, improving, and sustaining the reliability, capacity, and resiliency of the Puerto Rico electric system.

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