Quantcast

Puerto Rico's Massive Blackout Underscores Island's Fragile Electrical System

Popular
The aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Sept. 21, 2017. U.S. Department of Defense

More than 80 percent of Puerto Rico was once again left without power after a main north-south transmission line failed.

According to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the island was left with only 18 percent power generation on Thursday. The capital San Juan and other major cities were plunged back into darkness.


As Vox noted, the blackout was another reminder of the island's painstaking recovery fifty days after Hurricane Maria struck. One resident said it was "hard not to feel discouraged" and called the massive power failure "one step forward and three steps back."

Incidentally, the 230-kilovolt transmission line was previously repaired by the controversial Montana energy firm Whitefish Energy, whose no-bid $300 million contract to fix the U.S. territory's power grid is under FBI investigation.

But in a statement to BuzzFeed News, the company denied culpability.

"None of the issues reported today with the outage have anything to do with the repairs Whitefish Energy performed," spokesperson Brandon Smulyan said.

The power went out about 11:30 a.m. local time and was repaired Thursday night, Ricardo Ramos Rodriguez, executive director of PREPA, told CNN.

Indeed, as of Friday Morning, about 43 percent of capacity has returned.

"It was a mechanical issue on the line, could have happened at any line," PREPA official Fernando Padilla explained. "It's being patrolled and repaired by PREPA."

The Sept. 20 Category 4 hurricane knocked out power throughout Puerto Rico leaving much of its 3.4 million residents without electricity.

The latest outage has extended the largest and longest blackout in American history and a reminder of Puerto Rico's continued power woes.

As Peter Fox-Penne wrote for the Conversation, "Almost half its generation was from old, very expensive oil-fired plants, resulting in prices about 22 cents per kilowatt hour, among the highest in the U.S. The island has several solar photovoltaic farms but gets about 46 percent of its power from oil and only about 3 percent from solar."

Resident Marianne Sanchez wrote on Instagram: "Sad to report that today, the little power that was already restored … collapsed. Once again the whole island is without power. Although it is expected to be restored late in the evening or tomorrow, this is a not too friendly reminder of how fragile our power system is."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Greenpeace rally to call for a presidential climate debate, in front of the DNC headquarters in Washington, DC on June 12. Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

Confronting the climate crisis is the No. 1 issue for 96 percent of Democratic voters, but it clocked only around seven minutes of airtime at the first Democratic Presidential debate Wednesday, Vox reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Earlier this month, a study found that the U.S. had more capacity installed for renewable energy than coal for the first time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less