New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that New York State will provide technical assistance to the U.S. Virgin Islands for its ongoing efforts to rebuild and modernize the islands' electric grid. The U.S. Virgin Islands' power systems were heavily damaged when two Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall on the island in September 2017. A recovery effort by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority has been underway to restore and improve the islands' electric infrastructure, and WAPA is now requesting assistance from the New York Power Authority through the American Public Power Associations' mutual aid process. A memorandum of understanding between NYPA and WAPA was signed last week to put in place the needed mechanisms for New York to provide technical consulting support for the electric infrastructure rebuild.
"More than a year after these two devastating hurricanes made landfall, the U.S. Virgin Islands are still recovering, and New York is committed to helping our fellow Americans in their greatest time of need," Governor Cuomo said. "We welcome the opportunity to offer assistance and support as the islands work to rebuild their electric grid, and we will not rest until they are stronger and more resilient than ever before."
"Severe weather events have devastated communities across the country damaging homes and infrastructure," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We're helping the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild and recover after being hit by hurricanes last year, providing assistance to restore the island's electric grid and making improvements to ensure resiliency in the future."
WAPA, using federal emergency support funding, is requesting assistance and guidance from NYPA in the pursuit of building a resilient power system able to withstand the impacts of acute weather events, including extreme weather resulting from climate change. WAPA will make investments in upgrading the island's generation, transmission and distribution systems to improve reliability, as well as incorporate a practical approach to alternative energy resources such as wind and solar to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Earlier this year, the Power Authority, leading a contingent of more than 450 New York utility personnel, completed power restoration to more than 300,000 customers in the San Juan metro-area of Puerto Rico, which also suffered severe damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. NYPA continues to consult and assist Puerto Rico as part of New York's commitment to support the rebuild of the island's power grid.
Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, said, "NYPA is standing ready to provide technical support for the rebuild and modernization of the U.S. Virgin Islands' electric grid. The mutual assistance process is an excellent, non-profit method to leverage the expertise of fellow utilities. The Power Authority is eager to provide support to WAPA to assist in its development of a modern, resilient electric system."
WAPA is requesting support in its rebuild and modernization effort in five key categories:
- The design, construction, operation, maintenance and repair of WAPA's power generation, transmission and distribution system, including the integration of renewable and other alternative energy generation sources, energy storage and demand management.
- The development of methodologies, policies and corporate governance practices for the improvement of power grid reliability and resiliency with respect to storms and other catastrophic, environmental and economic threats.
- The study and development of economically viable best practices to harden the power grid against likely major weather events in the future, including the use of new designs, materials, system monitoring and control methods to prevent or minimize the impact of outages and power grid damage, reduce repair costs, and shorten recovery times.
- The development of improved corporate capacity and support services, including supply chain sustainability, physical and cyber security management, critical contractor access and availability, repair and recovery equipment, available inventory materials, internal and external communications, and response and mobilization planning for significant events.
- Potential strategies for long-term infrastructure upgrade financing and economic partnering with customers, suppliers, investors and financiers.