Puerto Rico is undergoing a massive energy transformation. By 2050, 100% of their power will come from renewable sources. But what about 2020?
Right now, most electrical power flows from fossil fuel plants in the south to consumers in the north, where 70% of the island’s power is used. When anything happens to the southern plants, power outages and blackouts rapidly spread across the island.
It happened in 2017 with Hurricane Maria, and it happened again in January when a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico.
The first step to solving that problem? Modernizing the energy grid, which involved converting San Juan Units 5 & 6 from a diesel power plant to one that runs on natural gas.
“Not only will this new plant help Puerto Rico improve their energy grid, but it also means reduced emissions and better prices for its consumers in the short term,” said Jeffrey Delgado,who heads Industrial Development and Export Sales for City Electric Supply out of Miami Gardens, Florida. Delgado and City Electric Supply helped supply the electrical components required for the conversion.
“The Central San Juan power plant is made up of four steam units (1 – 4) and two gas units (5 and 6),” Delgado said. “The conversion alone from diesel to natural gas will give the plant a combined generation capacity of 440 megawatts, which is enough to power over 350,000 homes.”
And although a new natural gas plant isn’t aligned with a 100% renewable future, it still brings stability and resilience, a critical stopgap to Puerto Rico’s existing energy grids.
“This is the first natural gas project of its kind in Puerto Rico,” Delgado said. “A more stable energy grid will continue to bring more people back to the island, more businesses, and just more opportunity.”
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s energy grid, which took 18 months to repair and fully restore power to the island. It’s estimated that more than a million people left after the hurricane in search of relief and economic opportunity.
Since then, Puerto Rico has worked quickly to establish greater energy resilience in the face of natural disasters and power outages, and this first development with City Electric Supply was a first huge step.
“It’s important that what we do, especially when it comes to new developments, is make sure it helps people,” Delgado said. “This opens the door for more energy projects in the future, especially renewable. Better stability means better resilience, and even though Puerto Rico is making progress in modernizing the grid with natural gas, they’re still pursuing renewable energy, too.”
Although Units 5 & 6 represent the first step that Puerto Rico is taking to reduce emissions and update its grid, it’s not the last one. In March 2019, Puerto Rico passed into law a comprehensive energy policy. By 2050, the island of Puerto Rico plans to generate 100% of their energy through renewable sources.
Across Puerto Rico’s local communities, there’s widespread support for renewable energy, especially small-scale solar. Localized renewable sources like rooftop solar can reduce the risk of power line disruption and generally withstands hurricanes and earthquakes better than centralized plants.
With solar, microgrids, and other renewable developments already planned to help support energy grid independence, City Electric Supply is in a perfect position to help there as well, especially with their extensive renewables division and Delgado’s deep connections to the island.
“For more than 20 years, I’ve worked on energy-generating projects all around the Caribbean. With Puerto Rico’s 100% renewable goal, I believe that City Electric Supply can truly help them transform the way they generate energy for the better,”Delgado said.
Today, that means a more modernized grid. But tomorrow, that means a more renewable-focused future.
Brad McElroy is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply