Jose Ortiz, Executive Director of the power utility PREPA , said that Puerto Rico’s largest power plant could remain out of action for up to a year because of earthquake damage. Two days after being hit by the island’s most powerful earthquake in more than a century, only half of Puerto Rico had power restored.
The 990MW Costa Sur plant near the earthquake’s epicentre was seriously damaged, and Ortiz said that it could remain non-operational for “perhaps up to a year”. He said that PREPA might bring in temporary generators with aid from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A series of earthquakes, including one of 6.4 magnitude hit Puerto Rico on 7 January. The island has still to fully recover from the impact of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which killed nearly 3000 people. At the same time, Puerto Rico was going through a difficult bankruptcy process to restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations. PREPA is around $9 billion in debt and in arrears on servicing that debt.
Ortiz said: “Costa Sur has structural damage and damage to equipment. Repairs could take months, perhaps up to one year. It’s really unsafe to be there right now, while aftershocks are still continuing.”
Without Costa Sur, Puerto Rico will need the rest of its power plants to operate at near peak capacity to meet demand.