- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has selected Fluor Enterprises, of Greenville, S.C., for an $831 million time-and-materials contract to restore electric power in Puerto Rico. The work is estimated to be complete by Feb. 28.
- That's roughly the amount of time Puerto Rico has already spent struggling with the rebuild, though efforts have been slowed by a contract controversy, the ouster of some key figures and political issues.
- Alongside transmission-level assets, a wave of smaller distributed energy resources is helping to stabilize smaller areas at the distribution level. A grid plan reportedly being developed by Puerto Rico's utility and others is expected to come out later this month.
It has been 77 days since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and destroyed its power grid. About a third of the island's generation remains offline, according to a Dec. 6 update.
Fluor's estimated date to complete the work is just a week longer — 84 days from today.
It's tough to draw a conclusion from that observation, but it's clear that a range of issues have slowed Puerto Rico's recovery. A $300 million contract it signed with Montana-based Whitefish Energy turned into a debacle, and was ultimately canceled. The head of the island's utility, Ricardo Ramos, resigned after answering questions about the contract's negotiations before a U.S. Senate committee. The commissioner of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency also resigned, saying he was "exhausted."
Because it is an island, mobilizing recovery efforts after Maria struck was always going to be difficult. Whitefish was successful in completing some work there, despite a lawsuit over payment. But the terms of the contract soured the deal once they were scrutinized and widely known — the company billed $319/hour for linemen, far above the average, and included a passage ensuring that, "in no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements."
But it appears that recovery efforts are now moving more swiftly. The Army Corps solicited nine bids, received two, and has now bid out a major reconstruction effort to a well-known company.
According to IEEE Spectrum, there are now roughly 3,000 utility workers on the island doing restoration work. More than 300 utility trucks were shipped there from New York. In addiiton, to help speed recovery work, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has signed an order granting utility workers access to private lands.
Also, according to IEEE, PREPA is working with a range of partners to develop a new plan for the grid, including: New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, Consolidated Edison, Edison International, the Electric Power Research Institute and the Smart Electric Power Alliance. The plan is expected to come out later this month.
Smaller efforts are helping, as well. Tesla has installed a half dozen batteries on two smaller islands off Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra. The 250kW / 500kWh systems are helping maintain power at critical facilities now, and in the future will assist in maintaining grid reliability across the islands. And AES has been coordinating with PREPA to roll out a half dozen 1 MW batteries.