It’s been almost seven years since Hurricane Maria devastated the northeastern Caribbean in September 2017. Even though electricity has long since been restored across the island, the demand for backup power sources remains high for businesses, schools, hospitals, utilities, government facilities, and private homes. This article shines a spotlight on the vital role of off-grid power-generation systems.

The unrelenting storm destroyed the island of Puerto Rico’s power grid, leaving 95% of its residents without electricity and more than half with no tap water.

“We live in the Caribbean, where, unfortunately, we are constantly exposed to the hurricane season,” said Rubén Aguilar, general manager of RK Power Generator, based in San Juan. “Hurricanes always strike this region, affecting us and our energy system.”

Beyond being a mecca for travelers who appreciate its pristine beaches and magnificent natural beauty, Aguilar said Puerto Rican locals take pride in the rich culture and strong sense of community on the island. He feels fortunate that his business protects residents during harsh weather emergencies.

When Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20, 2017, RK Power, the only manufacturer of generators in the Caribbean, had 200 Volvo Penta-powered generators operating throughout Puerto Rico. One of Aguilar’s customers, the Aqueduct & Sewage Authority, owns about 10% of those generators. These machines provide backup power during outages, allowing sanitary water to continue flowing toward treatment plants and providing a safe drinking water supply.

Jose Santiago, a supervisor at Aqueduct & Sewage Authority, said he worked 10- to 12-hour days after the storm to ensure the standby gensets powering his wastewater and lift pump were working.

When a Volvo Penta D5 engine needs routine maintenance, service points are easy to access, and optional equipment makes it possible to remotely mount filters.
When a Volvo Penta D5 engine needs routine maintenance, service points are easy to access, and optional equipment makes it possible to remotely mount filters.

“Not having an available generator could put us at risk of a sanitary sewer overflow in the event of a power failure,” said Santiago. “In emergency situations, we seek a reliable energy source. It’s been a really positive experience since we’ve had this generator.”

Santiago said he counts on portable generators powered by Volvo Penta D5 Tier 4 Final engines to provide more mobility, decreased diesel fuel usage, and a team to offer expert support and service.

When Hurricane Maria struck, RK Power, 200 Volvo Penta-powered generators operating throughout Puerto Rico.

“Volvo Penta is one of those strategic partners that aid us with new solutions, new tendencies, new engineering, and allow us to have a high-quality team,” he said. “In this moment, I feel a lot more prepared to face situations, such as Hurricane Maria.”

Efficient and powerful

Volvo Penta’s D5 Tier 4 Final industrial engine delivers maximum horsepower and torque at low speed with minimal noise levels. Efficient injection and a robust engine design and technology contribute to excellent combustion performance and low fuel consumption.

Standby power engines from Volvo Penta give customers the assurance that they have a backup energy supply in place to maximize uptime and keep vital functions running.

Volvo Penta has a complete line of industrial power-generation engines to support customer needs.

Reliability when it matters most

While fuel-efficient Tier 4 Final engines produce emissions low enough to qualify them to run constantly, RK Power customers in Puerto Rico, like Aqueduct & Sewage Authority, rely on generators fitted with these engines for predictable standby power — especially during weather disasters, like Hurricane Maria.

Joel Contreras, regional sales manager for Volvo Penta and account manager for RK Power, said that if the power were to go out at Santiago’s substation, there would be a severe issue with wastewater accumulating and not being pumped out. This would cause a health emergency for many residents of Puerto Rico.

“For an application like this, when there are health concerns, you need a reliable engine that’s going to perform when it needs to, especially considering the weather,” said Contreras. “The power grid in Puerto Rico is not the greatest, so having an engine that’s reliable and that will start up and be able to perform as needed is crucial for both RK Power and Volvo Penta.”

Global support

When a Volvo Penta D5 engine needs routine maintenance, service points are easy to access, and optional equipment makes it possible to remotely mount filters.

Aguilar said all the perks of a Volvo Penta and RK Power partnership make it easy to do business in a community that he loves to see flourish, despite challenges.

“We feel deeply proud to be able to deliver these solutions, providing reliability to the customers,” he said. “We trust that Volvo Penta, as a strategic partner, will continue to provide us with professional solutions to all the requirements of our progress.”