Hurricanes in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico

As the 9th Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF 2017) and the Utility Leaders Grid Modernization Workshop, took place October 18-20 in Miami, Florida, and the issue of how to build disaster resilient, climate-friendly, renewable energy systems was discussed. VERGNET has always been at the forefront of that topic, advising electrical authorities throughout the region.

With over 25 years experience on microgrids and remote areas, VERGNET is a major contributor to renewables and resilience through its focus and commitment in these areas.

The company’s thought-leadership and advocacy for better adapted and bespoke energy solutions has been consistent over the years in the Caribbean region as well as within other regions across the world.

How to avoid a total black out in the islands?

Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million US citizens, was just beginning to heal from Hurricane Irma when it was hit by Hurricane Maria, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Puerto Rico. All the island infrastructure has drastically suffered from the record rainfall and catastrophic flooding and sustained winds of up to 155 mph i.e. 68 m/s (gusts reaching 195 mph i.e. 85.8 m/s*)  from cyclones : “We’re talking here about major devastation,” Carlos Mercader, a spokesperson for the Puerto Rican government, told PBS NewsHour Wednesday. “And when we say major devastation, that means that in terms of infrastructure, we have full communities that 80 or 90 percent of the homes are a complete disaster. They are totally lost.” Communications to and from Puerto Rico are strained (cell service has been all but wiped out on the island), there is no electricity on the entire island — and it could remain that way for months. At least one wind farm (made of 13, 1.8 MW conventional wind turbines), at the Eastern tip of the island, was destroyed (whereas the 3 anti-cyclonic Vergnet MP-C turbines remained unscathed). Most utility-size PV plants (46.7 MW in Humacao, 23.7 MW in Guyama, Humacao’s sewage treatment facility) were destroyed.

VERGNET installed 3 GEV MP C in Puerto Rico and can confirm that the wind turbines weathered the storms and were ready to put back into production just after the hurricanes. Hurricane Maria is a catastrophe that will scar Puerto Rico for months and years. Even if some wind farms and PV plants remained unscathed throughout the island, they could not go on supplying energy to the grid after Hurricane Maria, as the grid was down, and wind farms and PV plants are designed to be connected to a grid (power by Diesel gensets and/or hydro plants) which imposes both voltage and frequency.

Puerto Rico’s electrical system is made up of thousands of miles of transmission lines, many running across mountainous and wooded terrain. Repairing those lines won’t be easy.

In the event of a giant storm like Hurricane Maria, microgrids and smaller-scale electricity generation would have made it more difficult to decimate the entire system.

This is the concept of a project VERGNET was recently awarded in the region even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria, where hybrid systems (wind and PV) will be connected to useful services such as hospitals or desalination plants.

VERGNET have been installing projects in areas subject to extreme weather conditions since 1992 and now have over 900 wind turbines installed around the world. VERGNET’s solutions are specifically designed for isolated areas and for hurricane areas including the Caribbean, the Pacific and Japan.



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