Josué Colón, director ejecutivo de la AEE.
Josué Colón, director ejecutivo de la AEE. (Xavier J. Araújo Berríos)

As the maintenance of private generation units begins, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Josué Colón Ortiz, explained yesterday to the presidents of the Mayors Association and the Federation of Mayors that he is focused on increasing the generation capacity of the public corporation to avoid selective outages at the end of the year.

Colón Ortiz explained that in November, the Ecoeléctrica (Peñuelas) units will go out of service for maintenance, which implies the loss of between 300 and 500 megawatts. Given this situation, PREPA is working on repairs to increase the generation capacity of the infrastructure and prevent selective outages during the Christmas season.

Colón said they do not expect load relays. “We are doing everything we can to prevent that from happening. We don’t envision it. However, the system does not have the reserve it should have, and we are working on the maintenance that it deserves,” Colón Ortiz told the press after leaving the meeting with the presidents of the Mayors Association and Federation of Mayors, Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz and Ángel Pérez Otero, respectively.

“What is essential here is that units do not fail. If the units behave the way we are expecting them to, we will address all these maintenance situations with the least possible impact on customers,” the executive director emphasized.

Minutes earlier, Hernández Ortiz put it this way: “We have some difficult months ahead. November and December are going to be tough months because the whole situation we are going through with generation failures joins the fact that some private plants are going to go out for maintenance. This is going to be a great challenge for the Authority, to maintain stability”.

PREPA’s units conservation plan is estimated to take between a year and a half to two years.

Colón Ortiz explained, however, that the failures in the boilers of Palo Seco Units 3 and 4 were corrected, as well as the problem in the turbine in the Costa Sur Unit 5. Meanwhile, Aguirre Unit 2 went out of service yesterday to correct the boiler circulation valve, so that it can produce its maximum capacity: 450 megawatts.

“All these repairs will add approximately 800 megawatts to the system,” said the engineer in response to questions from El Nuevo Día. This implies that production will increase from the 39 percent of the installed capacity it generated at the beginning of the month to 56 percent. This is equivalent to approximately 2,600 megawatts, which the official estimates will be enough to meet the demand during those months.

Ecoeléctrica’s maintenance is scheduled for early November, and in early January, AES will also take one of its units out of service for maintenance.  According to PREPA’s website, Ecoeléctrica produces up to 500 megawatts, while AES can generate 450 megawatts.

Colón Ortiz also acknowledged that the reserve generation fleet is not the most adequate “to deal with contingencies.” “This does not imply that there will be load relays, but that if any unit were to have an unexpected breakdown, the probabilities of service interruptions would be higher,” he added.

On Monday, the reserve units were able to produce 780 megawatts. Just one day later, the reserve dropped to 150 megawatts as units went out for repairs.

The optimal parameters for the operation of the power generation systems imply having 450 megawatts of the reserve in rotation and 150 megawatts in the controlled reserve, Colón Ortiz explained.

On the other hand, Hernández Ortiz indicated that LUMA Energy should consider reopening the technical offices in Juana Díaz and Barranquitas. Those facilities have crews with equipment to restore service in those towns and other neighboring municipalities.

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