Army Corps Mobile Microgrid App Improves Power Restoration on Puerto Rico

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The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Recovery Field Office in Puerto Rico is hastening grid restoration efforts with the help of a new microgrid app to site and manage installations.

mobile microgrid

*Credit: US Army Corpos of Engineers

Developed in-house, the microgrid app enhances the ability of field staff to site, commission and decommission mobile microgrids. Via the mobile app’s map interface, team members have the ability to drop in virtual pins to display and share new microgrid sites, as well as input site and equipment information into an inspection checklist.

Proper use of the microgrid app is also enhancing safety and security of the Army Corps’ microgrid work in areas throughout Puerto Rico that lost grid power in the wake of last September’s Hurricane Maria, according to  Lt. Col. Roberto Solorzano, commander in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Puerto Rico Recovery Field Office.

In addition to more efficiently siting, commissioning and decommissioning temporary microgrids, the app tracks work and project status in real-time.

GIS analyst Kara Hickey developed the app using ArcGIS Online, a secure, Internet-based, collaborative GIS development environment. ArcGIS provides access to up-to-date information regarding security, privacy, and compliance, status updates and alerts, along with information regarding best practices, system availability, and status history.

Creating the app was not incredibly difficult; the challenge was finding a platform all parties could use,” Ellision was quoted as saying in a news report published on DVIDS, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

mobile microgrid

*Credit: John Daves, US Army Corps of Engineers

Restoring power on Puerto Rico

The Army Corps’ Recovery Field Office, Puerto Rico team members have deployed eight of an authorized nine temporary, off-grid microgrids to date. The Corps is using temporary microgrids to provide subsidized grid power via Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) transmission and distribution lines in five municipalities. They’ll be decommissioned when utility grid power is restored. All rely on diesel fuel generators as a power source.

There are 2,400 miles of transmission lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines and 300 substations stretching across Puerto Rico, Sarah Bennett, US Army Corps of Engineers’ Public Affairs officer, said in an email interview. All of them are operated by territorial government-owned monopoly PREPA. Though bankrupt, the Puerto Rico government is looking for ways to privatize the utility.

FEMA assigned the Army Corps the lead role in the US federal government effort to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid.

“Our overall purpose is to scope, coordinate, and execute interim repairs to segments of the electrical grid to allow temporary restoration of grid segments until a comprehensive restoration of the overall power generation, transmission and distribution systems on Puerto Rico can be implemented,” Bennett explained.

The Army Corps  will continue working to help Puerto Rico recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria until the mission is completed, perhaps in the May-June time frame, Tate said.

As of late March, 94 percent of utility customers – approximately 1.38 million out of 1.47 million – were connected to the grid, she added.

Private sector renewable energy, energy storage and microgrid companies are also doing their part to restore energy services on Puerto Rico, as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean region. The US subsidiary of Germany’s Sonnen and Puerto Rico solar energy systems provider Pura Energia are at the tail end of installing 15 solar plus storage microgrids across Puerto Rico — all of the work charitable.

Recently, project partners commissioned an off-grid, solar-storage microgrid at a clinic in the rural, mountainous region of Utuado, where there has been no  power and in many cases running water since Hurricane Maria. The microgrid, the tenth provided by the team in Puerto Rico, pairs a Sonnen 8kW/16kWh battery storage system with a 10-kW Pura Energia rooftop solar system.

Track news about efforts to restore power in Puerto Rico with microgrids. Follow us on Twitter @MicrogridNews.

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