Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A brief history of PREPA

Been meaning to post this for a while and not getting around to it.

This is a history of PREPA and its antecedents in the electric game. Interesting throughout.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

50mw factory nuclear generators

I've said before that I think we need to keep an open mind to nuclear power.

These modular nukes are built in a factory and erected onsite. Perhaps these or something like them is the key to acompact, hurricane proof and sustainable future.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Warehouse 5 fake news update

El nueva dia was on the warehouse 5 story right away and got it right. See my post below. The justice dept just issued their report.

There were no materials hidden in warehouse 5. It was fake news. I don't know who ginned it up or why but am happy to see it put to sleep.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Naguabo windmills update

The regional weekly Presencia has an update on the totally destroyed windfarm in Naguabo. The owners say they will rebuild as soon as they get the insurance money.

Me? I doubt it. I expect that 5 years from now the will still be unrepaired. A good thing too as their output is horribly overpriced. 18 cents vs 10-12 for guayama's coal fired and Penuelas' gas generated juice. Us long suffering prepa customers just can't afford it.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

PREPA Warehouse 5

A couple weeks ago there were reports about PREPA squirreling away parts and supplies in a Cataño warehouse. Big headlines: ARMED FEDERAL AGENTS RAID WAREHOUSE!!! and so forth.

Turns out that this was just more fake news. Yes, ARMED!!! federal agents did go to the warehouse but pretty much all federal agents are armed so there is nothing unusual about this. It does works as a headline to get people spun up, though.

El Nueva Dia went to investigate (Good for you, END, for doing your job properly) and here is what they found:

PREPA “Warehouse 5" was no secret

The public corporation attributes federal intervention to a communication problem

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 10:05 AM

However, the Director of Transmission and Distribution of PREPA, José Sepúlveda Aponte, showed this newspaper documents that prove that, shortly after the passage of hurricane María, crews from PREPA and from private companies hired by the public corporation, as well as the Corps of Engineers, started looking for materials at that warehouse.
"All the new metal (transmission) towers that have been installed came from warehouse 5. It is the only warehouse with that material," he said.

Between September and October, about 200 requests were made, mostly by PREPA crews, according to the logbook shown to this newspaper. There are also entries made by Whitefish and Cobra companies.

As of October 28, there are entries of private crews hired by the Corps of Engineers, such as one made by Flour-Pike on October 28 for works on line 36800 in Canóvanas. There is also an entry on November 11 for that same line.

Meanwhile, on November 18 a crew of the New York Power Authority, also subcontracted by the Corps of Engineers, appears. In another document he highlighted that Fluor was also in the warehouse in December, as well as Con Edison.

There was no information available about entries made after December.

Read the whole thing. My guess is that this was a political "SWATing" designed to gin up controversy. Much like the fake controversy that was ginned up over Whitefish.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Comments on PR Microgrid Regulations

In an earlier post I had linked to the proposed microgrid regulations, expressed my support and mentioned a couple of comments. I finally got them written up and submitted. My complete comments are below

26 January 2018
Puerto Rico Energy Commission
San Juan PR

Good morning!
I have lived in Puerto Rico since 1971. For the past 30 years I have had no intercourse with PREPA other than as a residential customer. I work with industrial manufacturing and have long been concerned that a reliable and reasonably priced electrical supply is one of the top priorities for any company manufacturing or contemplating manufacturing on the island. This is also true of any other company in or coming to Puerto Rico.

In the 1970s and 80s I worked for a pharmaceutical manufacturer as Manager, Facility Operations. At that time PREPA’s inability to supply reliable power, at any cost, was a major problem. It was so major that it led me to develop one of the first microgrids in Puerto Rico, though we did not call it that at the time. Due to legal opposition by PREPA we never put it into operation. It did give me an opportunity to learn a lot about PREPA and Puerto Rico’s electrical system. I have maintained a layman’s interest in energy in general and PREPA in particular ever since.

I am very happy to see the microgrid initiative and I think this is just what Puerto Rico needs. A great deal of thought has obviously gone into the microgrid regulations and I congratulate you on a job well done.

I have a few comments that I would like included in the record. 

11.There is excessive emphasis, in my opinion, on solar. While solar has some applications in Puerto Rico, I do not think it should be permitted to be a major source of energy.

a.    It is fragile. As we saw in Maria, it does not stand up well to hurricanes. This installation in Humacao is a good example.

b.    Solar occupies far too much land for the amount of power that it generates. AES has solar and coal at their Guayama site. Each occupies roughly similar amounts of land. The solar facility generates about 5MW effective or about the equivalent of a truck portable diesel plant. The coal plant generates 454MW. 

c.    AES has mentioned building 10,000MW nominal, 2,500MW effective of solar in Puerto Rico. Allowing 5 acres per nominal MW, this would occupy almost 80 square miles of land. That is a lot on our small island. The yellow box on this picture shows 80 square miles relative to Puerto Rico.

The solar will not be built in a single installation, of course. It will be distributed in smaller blocks across the island. It is still 80 square miles total. Some will be built on rooftops, parking lots and so on. A lot, probably most, will displace existing flora, even if just weeds and will make the land unavailable for any other use. These plants absorb CO2 so the impact on CO2 emissions of this much vegetation being destroyed needs to be evaluated.

d.    Solar power in Puerto Rico is expensive. Is there any assurance that it will be less expensive in the future? PREPA has 20 year contracts to pay 18c/kwh for solar power with AES, the Humacao solar facility and others. In contrast, it purchases power from AES (coal) and EcoElectrica (natural gas) for between 9 and 12 cents/kwh over the past 4-5 years. Solar should only be encouraged if the power is competitively priced.

22.    Reliability of power must be a major concern of the regulation. Solar, and to a lesser extent wind, power plant outputs fluctuate from maximum to zero over the course of a day. Cloudy weather or low winds will cause fluctuations. Output also varies seasonally.

Battery storage will help smooth this out. However, most of the systems in use and contemplated provide limited backup power for 6-12 hours generally. This leaves solar customers without power at night and during multi-day cloudy periods as are common in Puerto Rico. A succession of still days will leave wind customers without power as well once the batteries run down. Currently this is not a problem because PREPA provides, in effect, an infinite battery or standby power. This may be a legitimate strategy for wind/solar generators but it is not free. PREPA must constantly maintain hot capacity ready to make up any shortfalls. If the wind/solar generators do not pay the full cost of this excess ready capacity, the costs will fall on the ratepayers or on Puerto Rican taxpayers.

Any microgrid regulation must require extended time backup power to be paid for by microgrid customers. If it can’t be provided by PREPA, the microgrid owner must be required to provide a diesel, gas turbine or other power supply that can run for an indefinite time, subject to fuel and maintenance.
 3.  Cogeneration/CHP is mentioned as a potential generation source for microgrids. I think that currently this is Puerto Rico’s most important potential power source. One problem with CHP in Puerto Rico is how to use the waste heat. Combined cycle plants, generating electrical power from both main engine and waste heat are getting smaller and smaller. There are many and many applications in Puerto Rico in the 0.5 to 1MW range. It is not clear whether or not these are included in the microgrid regulation. I believe that the regulation should be clarified to explicitly permit combined cycle CHP.

   4. Wheeling should be encouraged. This would allow microgrids to sell power to other microgrids. As I understand the proposal, they can do this but only if contiguous, transferring directly between microgrids. I believe that PREPA should be required to allow microgrids to sell power to each other, over PREPA lines, even if non-contiguous. A microgrid in Mayaguez should be permitted to sell power to a microgrid in Fajardo. The microgrid must pay a fee to PREPA sufficient to cover all costs and perhaps a bit extra. This would help PREPA recover some of the revenue lost from microgrid generation. It would also aid in disaster recovery as most hurricanes hit the eastern part of Puerto Rico hardest.

55.    Nuclear power should be included as a potential microgrid energy source. We are likely to see, in the next 10 years, packaged nuclear power plants in the 1-100MW range. Nuclear is the ultimate clean, renewable and sustainable energy. These could be ideal power sources for large microgrids, or as some call them, minigrids.

Again, let me emphasize how welcome these regulations are and how they will go a long way to providing for Puerto Rico’s energy future. Thank you for your efforts and consideration. Please contact me if you would like any elaboration on the comments above.

I'm speechless

I've been a residential PREPA customer for more than 40 years and an industrial customer for part of that time. In both capacities, when PREPA could not supply power, I've run standby generators to keep the lights on.

I had never heard of this before but apparently I owe PREPA money for those times. Sometimes I get dizzy here.

Our governor has, thankfully, put a stop to this stupidity.

Governor prohibits Puerto Rico utility from charging for private generator power

By Caribbean Business on January 17, 2018

SAN JUAN – A new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares prohibits the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) from billing and charging customers for consumption of energy not generated by the public corporation, which implies the utility will not be able to charge for electricity produced by private generators.

The governor enacted Senate Bill 666, authored by Sen. Miguel Romero, to establish that Prepa will not be able to bill for energy produced by a generator in emergency situations, which includes blackouts for periods greater than 24 hours.

The signing of the new law occurs nearly four months after Hurricane Maria struck the island, with only 63% of the utility’s customers having electric service.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bye-bye PREPA!

Our governor just announced that PREPA will be privatized.

Hooray! Time to celebrate.

The devil is in the details of course but it is hard to find any downside to this at all.

The Puerto Rican people agree. In today's Primera Hora newspaper a poll finds 82% in Favor and12% opposed.

More later. In the meantime Caribbean Business has the story.

Hooray! Again.

Roosevelt Roads combined cycle

We need power generation in the eastern part of the island. Our governor is promoting 4-5MW in Roosevelt Roads which is a good start but only a start. I am not even sure that would be enough to supply Roosevelt Roads in its current state much less when it starts developing. 

We need someone with some vision to build a 50 or even 100MW combined cycle plant in RR. Someone not including PREPA but perhaps one of the propane importers. This could be done as a microgrid for RR selling excess power to PREPA. Seems like a no brainer to me:

1) Location - At present most power generation is in the south and west requiring long transmission runs. This is not only costly, it is inefficient. Nor is it reliable as we saw with Irma and Maria. RR has plenty of vacant land to site the plant. 

2) Interconnection - PREPA currently has 2 22MW GT generators at Daguao (Ceiba) ab out 1/2 mile from the end of the runway. These were installed in the early 70s to provide reliable power to the Naval station. A plant at RR could tie in at this substation. (I am guessing, I don't know how much could be connected there or how much of the plant output would be available for sale)

3) Fuel supply - Roosevelt Roads is a perfect place to bring in tanker loads of fuel and has existing fuel piers. Space for storage should not be a problem either. Ships or barges carrying oil or propane could dock and offload in the main harbor or in the auxiliary harbor near the drydock. The plant should be multi-fuel so it can use whatever is cheapest at the moment.

 4) Customers - The governor wants to develop industry at RR. Having a plant there would provide primary customers for the juice  and excess could be sold to PREPA. If RR develops industrially, there may even be customers for steam generated by waste heat. 

5) Ruggedness - A CCGT installation would be pretty rugged and should withstand any hurricane with minimal if any damage. This is not the case with wind or solar. 

In a previous note I commented that the new micro-grid regulation, while addressing combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration, does not make any mention of combined cycle. I presume it could be used but it should be made explicit. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept of combined cycle, it is this:

An engine, either turbine or reciprocating is used to drive a generator. About 40% of the heat input is used with the rest wasted. The waste heat is recovered and used to drive a second turbine powering a second generator. This allows 60-70% (or more) of the energy input to be used. 

Yes, that is a very, very, basic explanation. A much more detailed explanation is at

The EcoElectrica LNG plant in Penuelas is a combined cycle plant.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pier 4 generator update (Again-1/21/18)

I first posted about these generators on December 3

I happened to be in San Juan today but the San Sebastian Festival kept us out of the old city. I drove down my the channel in Isla Grande and the generators are still on Pier 4. No idea whether these are the same ones never sent out, are newly arrived generators, or the ones that were there before, sent out and returned as utility power is restored.

There's a lot of them and 40% or so of PR Residents still without power. Why can't some of these be used to provide power to communities? If nothing else, set them up in the street and let people run extension cords.

It's been 4 months since Maria. Some folks have been without power since Irma, going on 5 months now. Why aren't these generators being put to work?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

78 Miles of solar

AES, which has a coal (454MW) and solar plant (4MW) plant in Guayama, is recommending the installation of 10,000MW of solar in Puerto Rico. They are advocating this as the primary source of PR's electrical supply. The use of batteries is included to even out availability but they do not address what happens when we have 2-3 cloudy days in a row (That never happens in PR, does it?).

That is 10,000MW nominal which translates to about 2,500 effective MW.

For a sens of scale, here is what the existing coal/solar plant looks like. 

So I was thinking about how much space 10,000MW would occupy. Looking around I find that the AES and Humacao solar sites each occupy 6-7 acres per nominal megawatt. Panels will continue getting more efficient so let's say 5 acres per MW. 10,000MW will require 50,000 acres. That is about 78 square miles or 202 square kilometers.

That is a lot of land that can't be used for much else. Nothing will grow under the panels so we lose the carbon eating potential of plants, even if just weeds. Some of it can be built on roofs or over parking lots but even so we still lose a lot of land. Not just land but relatively flat land. You know, like you would use for agriculture. Flat land that we have precious little of

To picture just how much 80 square miles is, I put an 80sqm block on top of a map of PR. The yellow block is to scale and is 40 miles long by 2 miles wide. Of course, the panels will be distributed in smaller areas but the total cumulative area will be the same.

Two other problems with making us dependent on solar:

1) Resiliency - Puerto Rico experiences regular hurricanes and has since forever. There is no reason we should not expect another Maria in the future. Hurricanes and solar panels do not mix. Just take a look at the Humacao solar farm which was completely destroyed.

2) Cost - Solar is not cheap. At present AES sells coal powered electricity to PREPA for 9-12 cents/kwh. EcoElectrica sells LNG powered juice to PREPA for about the same price. 

PREPA pays 18c/kwh for solar and has locked into contracts for 20 years at this price. 

Detailed data on how much PREPA purchases and how much it pays from these and other plants is available at their site

Puerto Rico must have cheap, reliable, clean energy. Solar is not the way to get there. 

I will be happy to have AES or anyone else invest their own money in solar energy on the same basis as any other form of energy. No tax or regulatory sweeteners. Especially no sweetheart power purchase agreements. PREPA needs to buy solar on the same basis as they buy coal, gas, oil or other energy. They need to pay time based avoided cost. PREPA needs to purchase a mix of energy buying whatever is cheapest at any given minute.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Microgrid regulations

The PR Energy Commission last week issued their proposed regulations on microgrid development. I read it over the weekend and recommend everyone interested in energy do so. Don't get scared thinking it will be like most regulations with dense, unreadable, legalese. I think anyone, even someone who knows very little about energy beyond how to turn on a light switch, will be able to understand it. 

One of the things I learned is what I pioneer I am in PR energy development. I developed a microgrid back more than 30 years ago!

Without going into a lot of detail here, what it mainly does is allows individuals, companies, consumers, third parties, municipalities and pretty much anyone else to develop small scale power projects. These might serve a single plant or building or an area as large as a municipality. 
Most importantly, it recognizes the right of third parties to sell electricity at retail under certain conditions. (This stems from the Alcon case discussed previously here Microgrid operators can sell power to PREPA , to members (if a co-op), to themselves or to customers connected to the grid.

The goal, highly worthy in my view, is to get away from the entire island being dependent on a few distant central plants in Penuelas and Guayama and get power generation distributed closer to point of use. 

It tries to encourage the use of renewables, not limited to wind and solar, but permits all types of energy generation for microgrids. It specifically mentions cogeneration, or "Combined Heat and Power" (CHP) as it calls it. I think this, combined in some applications with batteries, is the best way to go. 

I really only have three comments, which I will be submitting, about the proposed regulation:

1) I think small scale (>10MW) packaged nuclear plants will become practical and available in the next 5-10 years. Nuclear is the ultimate renewable energy and should be included in the regulation. 

2) CHP generally involves using a gas turbine or diesel engine to generate electricity then recovering the waste heat and using it for steam, chilled water or some other purpose. This boosts the system efficiency from @40% for electric only to 60-80%. Combined cycle is a form of cogeneration that uses the waste heat from the gas turbine to power a secondary steam turbine generator. Eco-Electrica and AES Guayama are both combined cycle cogenerators. 

It is unclear in the regulation whether combined cycle will be permitted. I believe it should be permitted and the regulation should explicitly do so.

3) Microgrids can sell power only to those connected to the microgrid or to PREPA. I would like to see provisions for PREPA to wheel power between microgrids. A microgrid in Mayaguez may have excess capacity at certain times that could be used by another microgrid in Humacao. They should be able to inject the power into the PREPA grid in Mayaguez and sell it to the microgrid in Humacao. PREPA would receive a fee for use of their system for this transmission, of course. As I understand the current proposal, the Mayaguez plant would have to sell the excess to PREPA who would then sell it generally to their customers. 

I seem to recall that PURPA requires wheeling for "Qualified Facilities" but it has been many years and I may be misremembering it.

Read the whole thing here:

Comments can be submitted prior to Feb 4 to

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Got lights!

My lights came back last night about when a prepa crew routed around a bad xformer.

Still 20 or more houses without lights in my urbanization.

40% of puerto rico residents still witout light. Some since hurricane Irma. Since Maria in my casr. 110 days.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Roosevelt Roads powerhouse

Governor Rossello announced a plan for development of the former Roosevelt Roads. Sounds great to me but we've had other plans before that never happened. Maybe this time will be different, thought Charlie Brown as Lucy held the football. 

As part of the plan, Nuevo Dia reports:

Other development includes the generation of sustainable energy, an area of great need, even more after the experience of Hurricane Maria. The structure, explained Laboy, already exists, it is a matter of enabling it.

Initially, between one and five megawatts of energy could be generated.

I wonder what structure he is talking about? Unless he is talking about the PREPA 40MW gas turbine across the road from Roosevelt Roads, the only structure I can think of is the old powerhouse. This was built in about 1940 and has not run since about 1945. The machinery was still there in 1974 but was removed and sat for years in the weeds in Fajardo where Office Max used to be. 

The structure is interesting. It was designed to withstand simultaneous hits by 2 12" shells from a German Battleship. This was when it was thought the British royal family and govt would be evacuated to Roosey. 

Here's a recent picture showing the construction:

The top roof is not a facade, that is solid reinforced concrete. If anything gets through this, there is an inner roof, about 6-8' thick. You can see this from about the top of the slit windows to the top of the platform where the stairs end. Building walls are about 6-8' thick concrete. (feet, not inches) Lots and lots of heavy rebar throughout.

It would be interesting to see it as a power plant again. Whatever they do with it, they won't tear it down. I knew the engineer who built it and he was asked to tear it down by the Navy in the 70's. Basically, he told me, it can't be done short of nuclear weapons. He is the one who told the construction details.