The private company, Luma Energy, announced on Monday that the Energy electrical to the nearly 1.5 million customers of Port Rich nearly five days after a fire at a major power plant caused a blackout across the island and force public schools and government agencies to close.
Officials are now focused on investigating what exactly caused the failure of a circuit breaker at a substation inside the Costa Sur power plant in southern Puerto Rico, one of four main plants in the US territory.
“I know many in Puerto Rico are wondering, ‘How did this happen?’” said Wayne Stensby, CEO of Luma, a company that took over transmission and distribution from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. last year. “There is no question that the electrical grid in Puerto Rico is incredibly fragile.”
As we mentioned in AmericanPost.News, the blackout outraged and worried many on the island of 3.2 million people, including those who cannot afford generators and have medical conditions such as diabetes and respiratory problems who rely on electricity for their treatments. The blackout clogged traffic, closed businesses and forced some people to sleep outdoors in the heat.
Customers angry over the prolonged blackout said they’ve been hit by recent spikes in their energy bills, with people complaining that the blackout damaged appliances and forced them to throw away purchases as the island struggles to emerge from a economic crisis of more than a decade.
Gary Soto, director of system operations for the Luma project, said another blackout occurred just days after the outage affecting 25% of customers due to a new failure at another power plant involving a boiler that crews had repaired. Recently.
Shay Bahramirad, vice president of engineering, said a third party will investigate the breaker failure, noting that the blackout occurred 19 seconds after the initial failure was recorded. He said the equipment at the power plant where the fire occurred dates from 1969 to the mid-1970s, although he declined to provide details, including maintenance records for the faulty circuit breaker, saying it would be taken out of context.
It was not immediately known what, if any, maintenance Luma had performed on the circuit breaker once it took over Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution operations last June.
Asked several times if maintenance on the circuit breaker was delayed, the company’s CEO said, “We’re not going to speculate.” Stensby said independent third parties would be responsible for structural investigation and testing and engineering design to rebuild the damaged area.
The blackout comes as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Company tries to emerge from a bankruptcy-like process and restructure some $9 billion in debt. The utility company has long struggled with corruption, mismanagement and underinvestment in the power grid, which Hurricane Maria wiped out in 2017. Emergency repairs were made at the time, but rebuilding projects are still ongoing. they haven’t started.
Additionally, a series of strong earthquakes that hit southern Puerto Rico in late 2019 and early 2020 damaged the Costa Sur plant and other infrastructure.
Before Hurricane Maria, a fire at another power plant caused a blackout across Puerto Rico in September 2016. A major fire in June last year at a substation in the capital of San Juan left hundreds of thousands of customers without power.
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