Power point

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL -

Hello, power watch, our old … well, maybe not our old friend. On Feb. 13, as res­i­dents were pre­par­ing for Tues­day’s storm, New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro is­sued a power watch for Avalon Penin­sula cus­tomers. It’s the first level of warn­ings, one ask­ing cus­tomers to con­serve en­ergy if pos­si­ble, and to be aware that the sys­tem was fac­ing chal­lenges.

It’s part of a no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem that the util­ity put in place af­ter Dark NL.

The no­tice came af­ter the util­ity’s rel­a­tively new $120-mil­lion com­bus­tion tur­bine tripped out on Feb. 13, a sud­den dip in power sup­ply that caused the util­ity to turn off power for some cus­tomers in what the util­ity de­scribed as “un­der-fre­quency load shed­ding.”

Here’s how Hy­dro de­scribes that cir­cum­stance: “If there is a sud­den loss of gen­er­a­tion due to a trip or is­sue on the elec­tric­ity sys­tem, Hy­dro au­to­mat­i­cally drops pre­de­ter­mined blocks of cus­tomers to quickly bal­ance the sys­tem. … (It) is a mech­a­nism de­signed to pro­tect the sys­tem from fur­ther dam­age or a wide­spread out­age. On av­er­age, un­der-fre­quency events oc­cur 5-8 times per year on the is­land part of the prov­ince and power out­ages are usu­ally less than 30 min­utes.”

The 125-megawatt tur­bine shut down at 9:21 a.m., and, late in the after­noon, Hy­dro said the tur­bine was still off­line and would re­main that way while the cause was in­ves­ti­gated.

It is not the first time in re­cent mem­ory the tur­bine has gone off­line. While Hy­dro didn’t have to put the prov­ince on power watch, dur­ing the sig­nif­i­cant snow­storm on Feb. 6, the tur­bine also tripped out, and was un­avail­able from 1:10 in the after­noon to 5:25 p.m.

Hy­dro’s power sup­ply and de­mand records, filed with the prov­ince’s Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board, also in­di­cate the tur­bine was un­avail­able for use from 5:55 on Satur­day, Feb. 11 un­til 9:03 on Feb. 12. Hy­dro, in a post­ing on their web­site, in­di­cated the tur­bine was taken off­line for “a nec­es­sary re­pair.” It was also off­line on Jan. 31, when it was “re­moved from ser­vice to­day to com­plete planned main­te­nance work.” It was off­line from 7:49 a.m. to 2:44 p.m., a shut­down of close to six hours (and one that did not af­fect cus­tomers).

All this, af­ter the util­ity re­ceived per­mis­sion last Septem­ber for $4.7 mil­lion in un­ex­pected com­bus­tion tur­bine in­spec­tions, af­ter the same tur­bine ran far more in 2015 and 2016 than the util­ity ex­pected it would.

Right now, all Hy­dro has said about the prob­lems is that it is ex­am­in­ing the lat­est trip. One good thing? We have far more in­for­ma­tion about what’s go­ing on than we have had in past years. But the in­for­ma­tion, at least at this point, is lack­ing clo­sure.

We know there are prob­lems. When the work is done, it would be nice to know just ex­actly what the prob­lems were.

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