Energy Efficiency, Microgrids, Utilities  -  January 15, 2018

Microgrids power Army engineers’ effort in Puerto Rico

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is relying on microgrid technology as part of their continuing efforts to restore electrical power to areas in Puerto Rico hit hardest by Hurricane Maria.

Partnering with FEMA, the USACE Recover Field Office and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Army Corps has set up microgrids in five locations, mainly in the southeast part of the island. Further locations are being considered in the central and mountain regions.

"We (take) one or more 1,850 kWh generators, the huge ones you find powering hospitals and big box stores, and with the use of transformers, set up at a site," explained Capt. Aaron Anderson, operations officer. "We then hook directly into PREPA infrastructure through a substation or directly into the main grid, and push power to a variety of facilities that are on the line that haven't been damaged and can accept it."

As power grid restoration ramped up after the Sept. 2017 hurricane, the microgrid solution was devised to fill gaps. "We were putting in smaller generators at critical facilities, but we still knew there were areas of the island that weren't going to see power restoration for some time," Anderson said.

"Microgrids allow us to proof a distribution system in an area prior to main grid restoration so that when grid power is restored, there is less time spent having to diagnose the lines, explained Task Force Commander Col. John P. Lloyd. “The system is also very versatile, and may be a capability that can be used in future storms throughout the region."

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