Power crews to aid effort in Puerto Rico

IRON MOUNTAIN — Workers from We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and DTE Energy Co. are heading to Puerto Rico to help restore power after Hurricane Maria.

In all, 18 U.S. energy companies are assisting Puerto Rico as part of a mutual aid agreement.

The work in Puerto Rico is unprecedented for the WPS and We Energies crews, as it is the first time they have been asked to assist with restoration efforts outside the continental U.S. However, both energy companies have experience restoring power in the wake of hurricanes, including this fall in Georgia and Florida after Hurricane Irma.

More than 35 We Energies and 20 WPS field personnel will travel to Puerto Rico in early- to mid-January, spending approximately four to six weeks repairing portions of the territory’s electric grid. More than 5,500 workers from across the U.S. will be participating in the restoration effort.

Trucks and equipment from Milwaukee, Wis.-based We Energies, and its sister company, WPS, are being delivered to a port in Jacksonville, Fla., where they will be loaded onto a barge bound for Puerto Rico.

DTE, based in Detroit, sent its trucks Tuesday to Norfolk, Va., where they will also be loaded onto a barge for shipment to the U.S. island. The overall DTE crew consists of about 50 linemen and 30 additional people, including mechanics, damage assessors and engineers.

Many areas of the island still lack power more than three months after the hurricane. Maria destroyed the island’s electrical grid. Roughly half of its 3.3 million people remain without power.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says full electricity likely won’t be returned to the island until May.

The additional 1,500 workers will bring the total number of people working on restoring power in Puerto Rico to more than 5,500, according to the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities.

For a related story, see page 5-A.