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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Repairs at fire-stricken power plant to continue into Friday

A full return of electric power following a power outage caused by a fire at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s Costa Sur generation plant in Guayanilla is not expected until well into Friday.

By John McPhaul

A full return of electric power following the power outage caused by a Wednesday evening fire at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) Costa Sur electrical generation plant in Guayanilla will not come until well into Friday, according to LUMA Energy spokespersons.

As of 2:30 p.m Thursday only 300,000 of the island’s 1.5 million subscribers had electrical service, the private consortium that operates PREPA’S transmission and distribution system said in a written statement.

“Given the magnitude and scope of the outage, and in order to work safely, we are informing our customers that power restoration may be extended through Thursday afternoon and Friday,” the LUMA officials said.

According to the 2:30 p.m. report, the goal was to have 1,000 megawatts of power generation available by midnight Thursday.

In addition, an aerial patrol was carried out and all the 230-kilowatt circuits appeared to have suffered no damage, the officials said.

“We continue to advance the restoration of service, but due to considerable damage to the Costa Sur Substation, we are currently not in a position to provide an exact estimate of the duration of the restoration,” the report said.

Both PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón and LUMA Energy Vice President of Strategic Affairs Kevin Acevedo said Thursday that until the switchyard in front of the Guayanilla plant is repaired, the demand and remaining available load could cause load delays.

“In the balance of energy and security that we have to have, between the load and the production of energy, the Energy Control Center will ensure that the operational criteria are met,” Colón said at a press conference. “That means that all customers will not be served, that is, that they will not be able to be restored until we have this part of the switchyard in service and we can have those units that are available in service.”

“None of the units have been damaged and once that area is available they will go into service,” he added.

Acevedo, meanwhile, did not offer an exact time for the restoration of service.

“The goal is the same. We are trying to maintain a fixed, firm goal, and I think we can achieve it,” he said. “Now, if there are pockets within the process where it has not been possible to restore [service], that is possible. It is not what we aspire to, but it is possible. LUMA has to take into account that there are critical load areas. We have to make sure that the hospitals receive this electrical load.”

The circuit breaker switchyard, Colón said, was being maintained but it would take more time to complete the repair in the area where the fire started.

When asked whether the repair cost will eventually be reflected in the electricity bill, the PREPA executive director replied that “no” it would not.

Regarding the remaining switches, the officials gave assurances that a process of changes and evaluations by LUMA Energy would begin.

“This is not the only switch that is oil filled,” Colón said. “That was the technology in Puerto Rico at that time. Now there is other more modern equipment, so LUMA, with its reconstruction plan, is going to continue the process of replacing breakers that contain oil with those that are insulated with SF6 gas.”

Early Thursday morning, the interim governor, Domingo Emanuelli Hernández, and La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Noelia García Bardales announced that they immediately activated the emergency plans of the various agencies of the central government, thereby closing schools and letting all but essential government employees stay home for the day.

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