Burns & McDonnell to support overhaul and rebuild of Puerto Rico’s electricity grid

Powerline in Autumn
Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

Burns & McDonnell announced this week that it was awarded a contract for program management services to support the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) with the revitalization of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The work will be primarily funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico causing most of the island’s transmission and distribution infrastructure to be severely damaged. There was a complete loss of power in all 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico.

The firm’s contract includes:

  • project formulation and funding,
  • project management,
  • design management services,
  • environmental and historic preservation services,
  • construction management services,
  • accounting services,
  • procurement management services,
  • program administration and other business office functions.

The first priority is to create a portfolio of projects to revitalize the power grid as well as provide the modernization required to implement Puerto Rico’s new energy policy set forth by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Other priorities will include strengthening the island’s transmission backbone, hardening or relocation of electric substations in flood areas and strategic distribution underground.

The Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) awarded Luma Energy the contract for operations and maintenance (O&M) for Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system. As program manager, Burns & McDonnell will also coordinate with Luma on future projects.

A team from Burns & McDonnell were deployed to the island immediately after the hurricane to support grid restoration activities. Many of these employees can apply knowledge gained about Puerto Rico’s power grid during the restoration work to also support various program management activities. The company also plans to hire local employees and engage local companies to support the multiyear project.

For the last year, Burns & McDonnell has been collaborating with PREPA to provide training for its engineering group in the areas of grid modernization technologies and seismic design. This has helped to fill a knowledge gap that was created by the loss of nearly 40% of PREPA’s highly skilled operational workforce.

“The sheer scale and widespread devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on the power grid has created an opportunity to completely rebuild it in a resilient and modern way,” says Efran Paredes, CEO of PREPA. “We are working to reduce energy costs, promote smart energy consumption and protect the environment. And ultimately and most importantly, we want to deliver a grid to the people of Puerto Rico that is resilient to severe weather conditions in the future.”

Gabriel Hernandez, general manager, Burns & McDonnell Caribbean, said, “Hurricane Maria was a disaster no one wants to experience again. We know the island will likely be hit with another powerful storm sometime in the future. We want to make sure Puerto Rico is resilient when the next storm strikes.”

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