© — Submitted photo
As the morning energy usage started to ramp up on the island of Newfoundland Wed-nesday, provincial power utility Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro began the routine of bringing an additional generator online to feed the need.
The generator, located at the Bay D’Espoir hydro power station, was being started up at about 7 a.m. when there was a problem.
A breaker in the unit — one of seven at the station — was not working as it should.
The system automatically isolated the unit from the rest of the power system and shut it down, in case of a more serious problem, such
as when a generator at the Holyrood power station chewed it-
self up in the midst of a January storm.
The isolation process at Bay D’Espoir resulted in two other generators coming offline. Suddenly, about 43,000 Newfoundland Power customers experienced an outage.
It also led to temporary closure of some schools and businesses.
“As generation or supply became available, we began restoring power to our customers. Power was restored to all customers by around 9:30 a.m.,” said Michele Coughlin, a spokeswoman for Newfoundland Power, in an emailed response to questions.
Newfoundland Power gets about 90 per cent of the customers’ power from Hydro. It is not unusual to have a problem with a Hydro generator cause a brief outage for some of Newfoundland Power’s 250,000 customers.
“Typically we see anywhere from five to eight of these (outages) a year and they’re usually of short duration,” Hydro vice-president Rob Henderson said, in an interview Friday.
“It’s something that happens on our system because we are electrically isolated from the larger North American grid. These kinds of issues don’t happen in the same way on the larger North American grid, because the connection with other systems allows generation from other systems to come to your aid, to help bring everything into balance,” he said.
Under current plans, the sanctioned Lower Churchill project will see Newfoundland linked to other, mainland power systems. The project is being led by Hydro parent Nalcor Energy and includes a link between the island and Labrador.
In addition, Emera has committed to build a link between the island and Nova Scotia. The so-called Maritime Link is making its way through regulatory review.
If even one of the two links is built, it will mean a more reliable power feed for the average island power customer, according to Hydro’s vice-president.
“Once we become interconnected with the rest of the North American grid, these types of incidents may still occur in terms of the generators may come off, but the customers will not be aware that it happened,” Henderson said.
“The system will respond and take power from the rest of the North American grid, which has a lot of generating capacity to bring things into balance. So we don’t need to interrupt customers to do it. The system will do it.”
In relation to the outage this week, Henderson said there was no impact from the damaged generator at the Holyrood station being unavailable, since only two of the three generators at that plant are usually in use this time of year anyway.
He said Hydro is pressing forward with repairs to the damaged Holyrood generator, as previously reported. A proposal on recovering the estimated $13.2-million cost of investigation and repair work at Holyrood is still before the Public Utilities Board.