Seeking PUB approval for $2.9 million in additional spending before winter
Newfoundland Power did not wait for the findings and directives from the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB), in relation to the regulator’s power system review, before planning immediate improvements to the system.
In the wake of rolling blackouts and unplanned power outages from Jan. 2-8, looking ahead to the next winter season, the Fortis company has informed the PUB it wants to address some lessons learned through system upgrades.
Specifically, the company wants to spend $2.9 million for more automated breakers, reclosers and switches on its distribution feeders.
Newfoundland Power has more than 300 feeders for distributing power to its customers, with each feeder essentially being a circuit extending from a substation. Feeders vary in size in terms of distance covered and customers served, but all include breakers or reclosers at the substation, allowing the feeder to be cut off or reconnected to the larger grid. In addition, downline reclosers and sectionalizing switches can subdivide a feeder, making it possible to more effectively isolate problems and deal with issues arising.
According to its written application to the PUB, Newfoundland Power wants to add 14 automated distribution feeder reclosers, seven automated substation feeder reclosers and two automated transmission line breakers, while also upgrading 4.3 kilometres of line.
The additions, the utility states, will provide “improved service restoration capability for customers” and help in situations where so-called “cold load pickup” is required, such as during the troubles in January.
The automated equipment can be operated remotely from Newfoundland Power’s control centre in Mount Pearl, meaning line crew members will not be required to go to the feeder lines to operate the breakers and switches manually, freeing the crews up for other tasks.
The proposed spending is now under review by the PUB, as a supplement to the utility’s annual capital budget for the year. The regulator has yet to approve the upgrades, or the recovery of the cost from ratepayers.
Newfoundland Power states its plan is to have the additional equipment manufactured and installed before the winter of 2014-15.
“To ensure all equipment is delivered and installed before the 2014-15 winter season, timely approval of the Board is required,” the application notes.
The equipment required for the automation is expected to take between three months and 6 1/2 months to manufacture and deliver.