CUC releases $6M to fix, rehabilitate power engines


The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board has authorized the release of $6 million from a restricted account for the emergency repair and overhaul of power engines at Power Plant 1 and to possibly pay for a temporary electric power supply that might be used while the engines are down for repair.

CUC executive director Gary P. Camacho said yesterday that the board has agreed that the release of the amount is needed to address any other costs associated with the power emergency right now at CUC’s Power Plant 1 in Lower Base.

Camacho said that during last Thursday’s meeting, the board agreed to take the $6 million from the $12 million that is in a restricted account that was specifically intended to buy a power engine to replace power engine No. 8.

That would mean that the plan to replace engine No. 8, which Camacho said has been ongoing for quite some time now, will have to be put on hold.

As to why CUC might need to solicit for a temporary power supply, Camacho pointed out that CUC’s engines would be turned off one at a time during overhauls. During that time, CUC would still be required to have a reserve capacity available during that downtime. That would also require the overhauls to be rushed, he added.

Camacho said repair of engine No. 6 is estimated to cost $300,000.

He said overhaul of engine No. 5, which is a large 13-megawatt unit, is projected to cost $2 million. Just the assessment and repair of a block on engine No. 5 is expected to cost $200,000.

Camacho said engine No. 7 needs a major overhaul that is estimated to cost $2 million.

He said they’ve wanted to do the overhauls earlier but CUC ended up redirecting the budget for this to the restoration efforts in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018, and that they are still waiting for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The plan is, once FEMA reimburses CUC, that $6 million taken from the restricted account will be replenished, Camacho said, adding that any unused funds from the $6 million will also be returned to the restricted account.

Camacho said the solicitation for temporary power supply for approximately 12 megawatts is estimated to cost $1.29 million. “That’s the amount based on the estimate. That’s a budget. So we are trying to get that so we have that backup power supply,” he said.

Camacho said the technical engineer from Mann BMW out of Singapore, which is one of the two original engine manufacturers of these units, came to Saipan last Wednesday and has been working with CUC staff last week and all weekend.

“They’re working on the main gear of engine No. 5 and moving to engine No. 6 and hoping to try to get engine No. 6 operational, hopefully within the next week and a half,” he said.

Camacho said that CUC has been able to meet the power demand so far and that their reserve power is supplied by some of the hotels. He said they have been working with Kensington Hotel and another hotel to take up the slack for just a couple of hours at a time during peak hours.

“But we have informed most of the hotels in the event we need them and some…self-generating agencies that, if in case we need them, we will coordinate with them,” he said.

Last week, CUC requested about eight hotels, including Imperial Pacific Resort, to self-generate electric power at their establishments during peak hours, as power engine No. 5 at CUC’s Power Plant 1 in Lower Base has is damaged.

Engine No. 5, which produces 11 megawatts of power supply, experienced a failure last Nov. 16, causing an outage in some areas on Saipan.

Camacho said an action plan has been put together to address the issue with engine No. 5 and CUC’s limited power capacity.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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