Puerto Rico Suffers Massive, Island-Wide Power Outage
The island of Puerto Rico just suffered another island-wide power outage, according to the island's power authority. The outage comes roughly 7 months after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on infrastructure and the electrical grid.
The first priority for utilities workers is getting power back to hospitals, the San Juan airport, water systems and to banks, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
The U.S. territory's power grid is largely run by the island's state-run bankrupt utility service, commonly abbreviated PREPA. PREPA told residents that it could take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours in order to restore power, and no cause of the outage has yet to be determined.
Puerto Rico's initial outage in the wake of Hurricane Maria was recently noted as the second-largest blackout in history. More than 3.4 billion hours of electricity were lost in the time that the island remained powerless. The only global blackout to top Hurricane Maria's was caused by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. That disaster led to 6.1 billion hours of electricity lost in affected areas.
The outage doesn't come long after Army Corp of Engineers testified to the U.S. Congress last week on the state of Puerto Rico's power grid being in better condition than pre-Maria.
"It is no secret the grid was in very poor condition before the storm," said Charles Alexander, director of contingency operations and homeland security headquarters at the Army Corps, in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "It is in much better condition today. The reality is, we have put in place new transmission, new distribution lines, new towers, new poles, and other power generation equipment."
This new outage comes shortly after a tree knocked out power to 870,000 energy customers -- over half the power authority's clients.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz took to Twitter to express her frustrations about this latest power outage.
The entire electrical system in Puerto Rico collapses AGAIN! Back to September 20th. @DavidBegnaud @leylasantiago @maddow @stephencolbertr— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) April 18, 2018
Cruz has spent the months following the hurricane traveling between the mainland United States in order to gain more support for the territory and back to Puerto Rico.
In addition to a number of international aid efforts, companies like Tesla quickly responded with sending secondary power systems to offset reliance on a faulty grid. Elon Musk's company sent the "first of many" solar and storage projects to the island in late October 2017.
Hospital del Niño is first of many solar+storage projects going live. Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with @ricardorossello pic.twitter.com/JfAu11UBYg— Tesla (@Tesla) October 24, 2017
The Tesla partnership with Puerto Rican officials started via Twitter after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello tweeted "let's talk" back at Musk's suggestion that Tesla could help offset Puerto Rico's struggles.
However, given the state and scale of the latest power outage, it seems like Puerto Rico's grid needs more than just a helping hand from a tech partner -- a fact that even U.S. energy officials are having to recognize.
"It is not the resilient grid we all recognize is needed," Alexander said. "We are going to do everything possible to get to as close to 100 percent [power restoration] as possible.”
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