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Hurricane Fiona shows how Puerto Rico’s power grid is still built to fail



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The three.1 million residents of Puerto Rico discovered themselves in a depressingly acquainted island-wide blackout this week within the wake of Hurricane Fiona. A number of the energy has been restored, however 1.1 million customers are nonetheless in the dead of night as of Wednesday morning. It may be days earlier than all Puerto Ricans can swap on the lights and pump clean drinking water.

The blackout comes on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall, a storm that left wounds which can be nonetheless uncooked throughout Puerto Rico. Greater than 3,000 properties on the island nonetheless have tarps for roofs ensuing from Maria’s 174 mph winds. That hurricane triggered a devastating blackout that lasted for 11 months, casting a shadow of distress as folks misplaced the ability wanted to purify water, refrigerate medication, and keep cool within the intense warmth. Near 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, most in the dead of night aftermath.

The hazards of an enormous blackout and the probability that it might occur once more have been actually clear with each storm season since Maria. Whereas a hurricane could also be a drive of nature, the extent and period of the following energy outages are a perform of preparation and response. Puerto Rico’s energy grid was in dire form for years earlier than Maria’s landfall and remained so earlier than Fiona. Outages plagued the island for months forward of this week’s storm. This wasn’t even the first island-wide blackout this yr.

“It’s a tragedy that the majority Puerto Ricans noticed coming,” mentioned Luis Martinez, southeast director for the Pure Assets Protection Council’s local weather and clear vitality program. “Not sufficient has been completed to stabilize the system since Maria.”


Regardless of billions of dollars allotted to bolster Puerto Rico’s energy grid after Maria and ambitions to rebuild and rethink its vitality system, the identical hurdles that left the grid in a fragile state nonetheless stay: sluggish paperwork, poor administration, underinvestment, and the inherent problem of delivering energy on an island.

Puerto Rico’s state of affairs could also be excessive, however energy grids throughout the US have been flickering as effectively these days, with climate extremes pushing demand to document highs whereas throttling the output of electrical energy, most notably in California and Texas. These vulnerabilities are poised to develop as common temperatures proceed to rise due to local weather change, resulting in extra excessive warmth and extra extreme rainfall occasions.

That in thoughts, Puerto Rico’s blackouts are an vital warning of what might occur to extra locations if local weather change goes unaddressed and energy suppliers stay caught of their previous methods of enterprise.

Fixing Puerto Rico’s energy grid is a tall order

Puerto Rico’s energy challenges start with its geography. Resulting from its restricted sources, the territory imports the entire gas wanted to run its major energy crops. Pure gasoline offers 44 percent of the island’s electrical energy, petroleum 37 %, coal 17 %, and renewables 3 %.

Since gas must be shipped in, most of Puerto Rico’s energy crops are close to the coast, with the most important alongside its southern shoreline. However the primary energy shoppers, together with the capital San Juan, are on the north of the island. That requires energy transmission strains to bridge throughout the mountainous middle of the island, creating choke factors which can be susceptible to excessive climate and are onerous to achieve to restore.

Storms aren’t the one menace. Puerto Rico suffered an earthquake in 2020 that broken its two largest power plants, forcing them offline for months. That left the island teetering getting ready to outages. It exhibits how energy technology concentrated in a number of areas can result in issues that ripple all through the grid.

Map of power generators in Puerto Rico

A lot of Puerto Rico’s energy is generated on the south of the island, whereas a lot of the demand is within the north.
Energy Information Administration

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico wanted to put in 50,000 utility poles and 6,500 miles of cable, a few of which needed to be delivered to distant areas by helicopter. That’s a part of why restoring energy took such a very long time. The reconstruction course of was additionally hampered by poor selections. Most notable, a tiny Montana firm known as Whitefish Power obtained a $300 million contract to revive the grid, nevertheless it was barely outfitted to deal with the job and charged greater than double the going price for its employees.

It didn’t assist that PREPA, Puerto Rico’s public energy utility, was already bankrupt when Maria hit. Puerto Rico’s dependence on imported gas, significantly petroleum, left PREPA susceptible to worldwide market shocks: Rising gas costs over time meant the corporate spent extra on simply protecting its energy crops working and much lower than wanted to take care of transmission strains and substations in good order. PREPA itself confronted long-running accusations of mismanagement, and after Maria, senior officers on the firm have been accused of taking bribes to revive energy to favored clients. Even now, the corporate continues to be $8.2 billion in debt.

Federal help for reconstruction after Maria was additionally gradual to trickle in. FEMA allotted $28 billion for restoration initiatives in Puerto Rico, however only $5.3 billion of that cash was spent forward of Fiona. So most of the proposals to make the island’s energy grid extra resilient had but to be carried out.

In 2020, a non-public firm known as LUMA Power picked up the duty of working Puerto Rico’s energy transmission system. Nevertheless it too has confronted criticism for poor performance whereas additionally elevating electrical energy costs, which have greater than doubled since January 2021, based on Martinez from the Pure Assets Protection Council. LUMA has been pursuing extra pure gasoline energy for the island, however world vitality costs spiked this yr. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s subsequent cutbacks on shopping for Russian pure gasoline has led to elevated competitors over US liquefied pure gasoline exports. Sporadic blackouts continued beneath LUMA, triggering protests throughout the island final yr.

The transition to renewables is already underway, nevertheless it’s not unfold evenly

Puerto Rico has ambitions of doing issues otherwise that solely picked up after Maria. In 2019, the territory’s authorities handed the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, which ended PREPA’s monopoly, set a 2028 deadline for phasing out coal energy, and requires the island to supply 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025 and one hundred pc by 2050.

Teams like Queremos Sol, which interprets as We Need the Solar, are serving to to advocate for this transition on the island. The proposals embody bringing vitality manufacturing nearer to the place it’s used, minimizing reliance on long-distance transmission, in addition to fragmenting the distribution community into microgrids in order that an outage in a single space doesn’t ripple throughout the entire island. Additionally they need extra funding in financing to assist lower-income residents get instruments like photo voltaic panels and batteries to make sure extra dependable energy.

However Puerto Rico is way delayed, and a few photo voltaic initiatives have struggled. Tesla’s efforts to put in photovoltaic panels and batteries on the close by island of Vieques have been stalled by growing older wiring in folks’s properties and regulatory hurdles. Some officers have been reluctant to modify so aggressively to renewables.

“Puerto Rico may very well be the large experiment for the entire nation by way of having a diversified portfolio of vitality, not only one experiment by way of renewables,” Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s non-voting consultant in Congress, told Politico in 2021.

On the similar time, Puerto Ricans who can afford to go solar are already doing so, with some going off the grid entirely. However that implies that Puerto Rico’s energy utilities should distribute the prices of vitality amongst fewer clients, forcing costs to go up for a lot of of those that can least afford it. Puerto Rico’s inhabitants has been declining over the past decade as effectively, and Maria accelerated that development.

“I believe Puerto Rico must be very intentional about the way it’s going to transition to not hurt the parents which can be much less lucky on the island,” Martinez mentioned.

Puerto Rico is just not alone in going through these challenges. A 2021 winter storm in Texas led not solely to intensive blackouts, however energy payments for some clients as excessive as $17,000. Californians earlier this month received an urgent text message to chop their energy use to stave off blackouts as electrical energy demand reached a document excessive throughout a warmth wave. The US energy grid is way extra fragile than many have realized. Fixing it up would require not simply {hardware}, however a approach of sharing the burden equitably.


Stadia was doomed from the start, because Google knows nothing about gaming, and users hesitated to invest in it, not trusting Google to keep it alive for long (Devin Coldewey/TechCrunch)



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Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch:

Stadia was doomed from the beginning, as a result of Google is aware of nothing about gaming, and customers hesitated to put money into it, not trusting Google to maintain it alive for lengthy  —  There’s quite a lot of chatter proper now in regards to the “shock” shutdown of Stadia, Google’s game-streaming service.

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Google Stadia Will Shut Down in 2023, All Purchases to Be Refunded



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Cloud gaming service Google Stadia will shut down on Jan. 18, the search big mentioned in weblog submit Thursday. Google will refund all Stadia {hardware} bought by its Google Retailer, together with all video games and add-on content material bought from the Stadia retailer.

The tech big goals to have all of the refunds accomplished by mid-January. 

Individuals utilizing Stadia will nonetheless to have the ability to entry to their recreation libraries, together with Professional video games should you had an energetic Professional subscription as of Thursday. In an e mail despatched to gamers, Google warned that writer assist for video games could fluctuate, and it is doable that your gameplay expertise could also be affected in the course of the shut-down interval (suggesting that some video games may vanish or lose options early). 

It seems that Google did not inform many builders concerning the shut-down previous to the general public weblog submit. Destiny 2 makers Bungie tweeted on Thursday about coming up with “a plan of action” within the wake of the announcement. Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft intends to permit gamers who’ve purchased its video games on Stadia to bring them to PC by its Ubisoft Join digital distribution service, it mentioned Friday. 

Google talked to a minimum of one studio (Luxor Advanced developer Olde Skuul) about reimbursement for misplaced income because of the abrupt change, Axios reported Friday.

Explaining the transfer, Stadia vice chairman and basic supervisor Phil Harrison famous Google’s investments in gaming by its Google Play digital distribution service, its cloud tech and YouTube streaming.

“Just a few years in the past, we additionally launched a shopper gaming service, Stadia,” he mentioned within the weblog submit. “And whereas Stadia’s strategy to streaming video games for shoppers was constructed on a powerful know-how basis, it hasn’t gained the traction with customers that we anticipated so we have made the troublesome determination to start winding down our Stadia streaming service.”

Many staff on the Stadia staff will likely be reassigned to different roles inside Google, the weblog submit famous.

The cloud gaming service launched in November 2019, to a combined reception.

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Playing Google Stadia for the first time


“Stadia isn’t delivering new games [at the moment], it is simply making an attempt to ship a brand new solution to play by streaming. One that you could already get from different suppliers,” CNET’s Scott Stein wrote at the time. “Till Google finds a solution to loop in YouTube and develop really distinctive aggressive large-scale video games, Stadia is not price your time but.”

Regardless of having some solid games in its library, Stadia did not evolve. Google shuttered its in-house development studio in 2021, hinting that its gaming ambitions had been shifting away from Stadia.

Stadia additionally had loads of cloud gaming competition, with Xbox, PlayStation, Nvidia and Amazon all providing options. 

It hasn’t been a complete bust for the corporate, with Harrison saying the tech could be utilized to YouTube, Google Play and its augmented actuality tasks. 

That tech may also be made out there to Google’s business companions. Sony gave its personal streaming service a headstart in 2015 by buying the patents of OnLive — an early game streaming service — shortly earlier than the once-promising startup shut down.

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1More SonoFlow review: Great headphones with excellent audio quality and amazing battery life



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1More launch their first wi-fi over-ear headphones, the SonoFlow

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