Governor Directs New York Power Authority to Send Electric Utility Teams to Assist in Troubleshooting Ongoing Power Outages and to Help Develop Plans to Modernize and Harden Power Grids
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State has deployed two teams of multi-disciplinary technical power grid experts from the New York Power Authority to support both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their ongoing electric grid rebuild, modernization and storm resiliency efforts. The teams will address recent outages and work to stabilize the islands' power systems and avoid repeated blackouts.
"New York has a unique relationship with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we will continue to direct critical resources to the island to help ensure they are prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store in the future," Governor Cuomo said. "Recovery and rebuilding is not a quick fix, especially with today's climate change challenges, and we are committed to assisting and guiding our island neighbors as they transition to a stable power system and build back better and stronger than before."
"We are continuing to strengthen our partnership with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by providing increased support to rebuild and modernize their electric grids," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "These efforts will help to stabilize power systems, reduce blackouts, and enhance resiliency on the islands. This deployment builds on our commitment to provide assistance and resources in the aftermath of severe weather events and help our neighbors fully recover while preparing for the future."
In addition to operational support, both teams will continue to work with the local utilities to develop applications for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That funding will be leveraged for priority projects to rebuild and harden both power systems. NYPA is also continuing its collaboration with both the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to develop strategic roadmaps and 10-year investment plans to create cleaner and more resilient utilities.
NYPA Assistance in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, the NYPA team of engineers and power experts will join technical staff from PREPA to ramp up troubleshooting and assessments of the island's generation system and work to mitigate the latest outages and prevent future disruptions. The latest additional assistance builds on a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding between NYPA and PREPA to help Puerto Rico rebuild its power grid, organize and maximize efficiencies in its utility operations and prepare for future severe storms.
Future planning for the island includes support for a proposed Vieques and Culebra islands hybrid microgrid project and developing a system hardening plan with new substations and underground utilities for Puerto Rico's Humacao District, which was heavily damaged by the 2017 storms.
Between November 2017 and April 2018, more than 450 New York State utility personnel, led by NYPA, went to Puerto Rico to help restore power in response to a request by Puerto Rico for mutual aid resources following the severe damage from Hurricane Maria. The New York State utility crews undertook repairs to transmission lines and other electric infrastructure work focusing its initial power restoration efforts in the San Juan-metro area. In addition, NYPA technical experts also completed assessments of virtually all of the island's 330 utility-owned substations.
NYPA Assistance in USVI
In USVI, the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix have been experiencing a series of power outages over the last few months and WAPA is seeking the Power Authority's expertise in resolving its electric system issues. The new NYPA team of technical experts will join leadership already on the ground in USVI—as a result of a January 2019 MOU between NYPA and WAPA—to assist in stabilizing the power grid to prevent reoccurring island-wide blackouts.
NYPA will continue its ongoing review to optimize operations at two major power plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix with the goal of reducing the current high cost of producing electricity and establishing best practice protocols for operations.
NYPA will also provide the islands with technical guidance on proposals for solar and energy storage projects and is advising WAPA on several planned power transmission and distribution resiliency projects, including gas-insulated substations, new submarine power cables, selective undergrounding of transmission lines and the widespread installation of composite poles, which are designed to withstand Category 5 Hurricane force winds.
Additionally, NYPA will work closely with WAPA to develop strategic long-term investment plans that promote the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar arrays, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing resiliency across the territory.
Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, said, "We at NYPA are honored to bring New York State's utility expertise to both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help our island colleagues harden their systems and provide, in the longer term, affordable and renewable energy to residents and visitors on these beautiful islands. NYPA has been very active in providing post-storm support and we are committed to continuing our operational support and guidance."
PREPA Chief Executive Officer José Ortiz said, "We appreciate the assistance that Governor Cuomo and NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones have offered PREPA to identify and implement the necessary means for the benefit of our customers. NYPA personnel will assist with a thorough inspection to help define immediate initiatives to stabilize the generation system."
Lawrence J. Kupfer, CEO, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, said, "We are very thankful to our NYPA colleagues and to Governor Andrew Cuomo for helping the Virgin Islands with our power system outages. They've been helping us develop a roadmap for a clean, reliable and affordable electricity system and responding to and correcting outages is part of that plan. We appreciate NYPA's technical guidance and are grateful for their expertise as we work toward building back better resilience and system hardiness."
Assembly Member Maritza Davila, Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, "It took roughly eleven months to restore Puerto Rico's electricity after Hurricane Maria. Till this very day both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have encountered power outages that have affected countless families. We cannot wait until the antiquated grids are restored. We must act now. I stand in solidarity with Governor Cuomo's support in providing long lasting, sustainable electricity grids for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to better prepare for disastrous situations with the help of the New York Power Authority. I thank the Governor for his efficiency regarding this issue."
Assembly Member Nick Perry said, "In representing New York, Governor Cuomo is wise enough to understand that no borders or walls should define our goodwill and commitment to help. I commend Governor Cuomo for his steadfast support of the people of the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who continue to rebuild their infrastructure following Hurricane Irma. Following the storm, New York pledged its assistance, and with the deployment of New York Power Authority's Electric Utility Teams, the Empire State is keeping its word to our brothers and sisters in the region, to be reliable partners in the long-term recovery process and aid them in being better and stronger than before. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo in these recovery efforts, and with him to aid the people of the Bahamas as they struggle to recover from the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian."