Puerto Rico's fossil fuel power plants fared better than solar and wind, say feds

Puerto Rico’s power plants that use coal, oil, and natural gas are operating at nearly 100 percent, while nearly 80 percent of wind farms are still out of commission after last year’s hurricane season, the federal government said this week.

The Energy Information Administration, the analysis wing of the Energy Department, included Puerto Rico for the first time ever this week as part of its national monthly reporting on existing, closed, and proposed power plants.

“Much of Puerto Rico’s electricity infrastructure was damaged during hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017,” EIA said in its first report including the U.S. island territory.

But the long half-year slog to restore electricity service to the island has been fruitful, particularly for its fossil and hydroelectric power plants.

Over 99 percent of the hydroelectric and fossil-fueled power plants in Puerto Rico reported their status as operational as of April, according to the new report.

“All of the power plants built in Puerto Rico from 1960 through 2009 that are still operating are powered by fossil fuels, mainly petroleum,” according to the agency’s report.

“However, several plants reported that they were not operating as of April 2018, but they are expected to return to service within the calendar year,” according to the agency. All of those plants were either wind, solar, or advanced batteries used to store electricity from the renewable plants when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing to produce energy.

Most onshore wind power plants, representing 76 percent of the island’s total wind energy, are currently not operating. Solar energy farms fared a little better, with 32 percent of the resource not generating electricity. One battery facility, representing 12 percent of the island’s battery capacity, is not operational, the agency said.

“One wind and one solar plant reported that they were out of service and not expected to return within the calendar year,” the agency stated.

“All new electricity generating capacity added in Puerto Rico since 2009 is powered by renewable energy technologies including solar photovoltaic, onshore wind, and landfill gas,” according to EIA. “A relatively small number of utility-scale batteries were added in 2015 and 2016.”

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