Hurricane Maria: Island-Wide Blackout Lasting Months

As an island in the middle of “Hurricane Alley”, Puerto Rico is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and can expect one or more hurricanes to impact the island each year. In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria both hit the island over a period of a little more than two weeks. Irma knocked out power for 50% of PREPA customers with all but 5% restored. Maria severely damaged the entire system knocking out power to the entire island with 20% restored in one month, 50% restored in two months, and 100% restored after a year.

The extended power outage caused cascading failures of critical infrastructure. When the power fails, all critical services that depend on electricity also fail:

  • Food & Medical Supply Chains
  • Hospitals
  • Fuel distribution
  • Manufacturing 
  • Communications
  • Banking / Finance
  • Education
  • Safety

 Only one hospital remained open during the entire blackout — thanks to their CHP microgrid and reliable fuel deliveries from Empire Gas. Likewise, Empire Gas (the largest propane distributor) and Olein (a refiner / distributor of lubricants) were able to operate during all of the blackout except for the day of the hurricane (Empire Gas) and several days immediately after it (Olein) thanks to their CHP microgrids. Fuel distribution failures caused many companies relying on gasoline or diesel backup generators to lose power once their limited supply of fuel ran out several days into the blackout.

The total losses from the blackout are estimated to cost over $90 billion.

50% Restored in Two Months; 1 Year to Restore 100%
Islands are more vulnerable to long-term outages from hurricanes and take longer to recover.

NBC: Officials Say Puerto Rico’s Electrical Grid Isn’t Ready For Another Hurricane

Hospital de la Concepcion was the only hospital in Puerto Rico than operated during 100% of the blackout when many other hospitals were forced to evacuate...

Long duration power outages expose weaknesses in backup generators often leading to loss of power several days to a week into a long duration event.