Xcel Energy is answering the call for mutual aid from Puerto Rico by sending 65 workers to the island at the end of January.
“We’re proud to be part of more than 5,500 workers nation-wide focused on restoring power to Puerto Rico,” said Kent Larson, executive vice president and group president, Operations. “We have some of the best line workers in the nation, and we’re honored to play a role in helping our neighbors – and fellow citizens – even if they live more than 2,400 miles away and across a body of water.
Xcel Energy is expected to be working in Caguas, a mountainous and remote region in the southeast region of the island where the storm came ashore and the damage is significant. Company safety personnel will be traveling with the crews and providing daily safety training and updates to deal with the unfamiliar terrain and conditions.
The company is sending about 50 line workers – from the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico – along with management, support, safety and fleet staff. They will be flying to the island after company trucks and equipment were sent by barge at the beginning of the month. Xcel Energy’s support is expected to last six weeks with the first wave of workers working three weeks and a second wave relieving them for the last three weeks of the mission.
“Our crews want to do this – they’re passionate about their work and eager to do the job,” Larson said.
Xcel Energy received a request for assistance on Dec. 16, 2017, and is one of more than 20 electric companies committed to accelerating ongoing power restoration efforts after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is working with member of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on damage assessment and a coordinated restoration plan.
“We know if we were affected by a natural disaster, other energy companies would help us.”
In preparation to provide aid, Xcel Energy sent 65 pieces of equipment from Minnesota, Colorado and Texas – which included line trucks, pickups, diggers and trailers – at the beginning of January to Lake Charles, Louisiana. They were loaded on the Ulysses – a barge that is transporting them to Puerto Rico – on January 7, and left port on its way to the island on January 9.
So far, PREPA says it has restored power to 55 percent of customers on the island. The hurricane caused significant damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, and the damage is coupled with geographic challenges. Much of the country’s transmission network is in rugged, mountainous terrain with little or no road access.