Power links will prevent outages: N.L. Hydro - Outage on island this week would not have happened in most of North America

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Bay D'Espoir hydroelectric generating station

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.


Organizations: Newfoundland Power, North American, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Nalcor Energy Public Utilities Board.afitzpatrick

Geographic location: Holyrood, North America, Island of Newfoundland Wed Newfoundland Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

    April 23, 2013 - 06:29

    I hate to say it but something fishy is going on here. Lets see no problems before Muskrat Falls was sanctioned and all of a sudden every few weeks there are power outages, coincidence? Even if you upgraded all the substations and retrofitted Holyrood ,it would still be much cheaper than Muskrat Falls that will cost us 10-12 billion at least to finish. Not bad for a province that just layed off 2000 workers and has no money.

  • John Smith
    April 22, 2013 - 06:17

    LOL...you guys are hilarious...love it...keep em' comin' guys....very entertaining comments...totally insane...but entertaining....

  • DaveW
    April 21, 2013 - 10:17

    Do they really think that we are that dumb. We never had any power problems until muskrat became an issue. This has become nothing more than a joke.

  • Tony Rockel
    April 20, 2013 - 23:27

    More Nalcor hogwash! The island of Newfoundland could have a perfectly adequate power grid if the existing generators were properly connected--- for a fraction of the cost of the proposed mega-rip-off.

    • Fred Penner
      April 22, 2013 - 06:39

      Why don't you march on over to Hydro Place and give the electrical engineers there the benefit of your intelligence?

  • Ed Power
    April 20, 2013 - 22:15

    Is it just me, or does anyone else notice an increasing number of electrical system problems of late - generation problems, distribution problems and equipment failures? If one were a cynic, or conspiracy theorist, one would think that the increasing number of problems are part of a plan, or being stage-managed in much the same way that governments do their pre-budget PR campaigns; preach doom-and-gloom and predict massive deficits to frighten the public, and then present a document with lower deficits and fewer cuts. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief and thanks the gods for sparing them from poverty and the poor house. This "campaign" would to be designed to scare electrical users into accepting the Muskrat Mantra - "See what will happen if we don't build it!" - and people will don another sweater and pitch the coffee table into fireplace as they huddle around Grandma's antique oil lamp, and not wonder about why aging equipment wasn't replaced earlier, powerlines upgraded, transformers replaced, emergency procedures updated and improved........

  • Tony Rockel
    April 20, 2013 - 19:26

    More Nalcor hogwash! We could have a perfectly satisfactory local grid for the island if the existing hydro generators were all connected. This would cost just a fraction of the proposed fiasco, which is like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

  • Wondering
    April 20, 2013 - 14:54

    And when the link is built to nova Scotia, under free trade we will be forced to import cheap , less than 10cent per kw power from those cheap gas generators, in the USA ,and spill water from Muskrat falls because it is higher cost , more than double. And so 10 billion for what? Is this stupid or a great plan?

  • saelcove
    April 20, 2013 - 10:55

    Muskrat falls anyone,Nalcor must think we are all idiots

  • c
    April 20, 2013 - 09:09

    There are numerous islands throughout the world that do not have links to other power grids....this is mere window-dressing to justify the astronomical cost of Muskrat Falls. If it were deemed to be such a problem, we would have built a line to Churchill Falls years ago...to bring home the 300MW of power now being sold on open markets. We don't need anything close to 300 MW but it would have been many billions less than Muskrat. I stand to be corrected but I am of the understanding that there is power on the Island going to waste....... because of a lack of inter-connection. Maybe they should have started there....... instead of building this financial white elephant to Danny's legacy.