Generators will be ready before Dec. 1: N.L. Hydro

With master plan, power utility committed to not repeating DarkNL

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on August 29, 2014
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is confident its maintenance program will ensure all of its generators will be ready for the winter demand — and that blackouts like last winter will be avoided. — Telegram file photo

Given set schedules and progress in planned maintenance and upgrades, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro vice-president Rob Henderson remains confident the utility’s generators will be available to meet power demand when the winter cold hits.

Henderson backed up his repeated statements to that effect on Friday, walking through a standing schedule for generator maintenance and upgrades.

“The important thing I’d like to convey from this plan is the attention that we’ve put on this to ensure everything is complete in advance of the winter,” he said.

The schedule lays out when individual generators are actually taken offline and then tackled by Hydro staff and hired consultants — who test, repair and sometimes replace individual parts within the units.

They then evaluate the units as a whole and bring them back online, assuring they will be able to operate when and as required.

“There’s many things going on with each of the units,” Henderson said.

 “This is the time of the year that’s most intense for us.”

According to the schedule, all generators — with the exception of the new, backup combustion turbine being installed at the Holyrood power plant — will be finished with maintenance as of Nov. 22.

That is when the last unit, a 75-megawatt generator at Hinds Lake, is expected to be restarted and ready.

The new backup turbine at Holyrood is scheduled to be up and running as of Dec. 7.

Hydro typically sets the first day of December as the date when all of its generators must be available.

Yet, in 2013, a judgment call made by senior staff allowed a planned overhaul of a gas turbine at Hardwoods to run closer to that deadline.

“We put in all of our effort, last year, to get that completed on schedule ... we worked through the fall,” Henderson recalled. “And unfortunately, when that unit went back in service, very shortly after — the next day — we had a fuel valve fail on it. And that was a brand new fuel valve that had been put in it.”

It was fixed, but not quickly enough. “We were then right into the winter demand,” he said.

Unavailable generators can result in a shortage of power supply and, as a result, a demand for conservation measures or even unplanned power outages.

In 2014, Hardwoods will be ready to go in September, the gas turbine station at Stephenville will be ready as of mid-October and the island’s largest combustion units, inside of the Holyrood power plant, are scheduled to be all back online as of Nov. 9.

“This schedule gives us that time to be prepared,” he said.

He also spoke about Hydro’s reporting of all winter preparations to the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB). The utility has filed a “master plan” document with the regulator, gathering together updates on the progress of generator maintenance and upgrades, but also other reporting making its way to the head of Hydro.

That reporting includes, but is not limited to, readiness of the utility’s protection and control systems, terminal station transformers, compliance reports and the advancement of identified needs in a “winter readiness self assessment.”

In addition to the master plan and related reports, the PUB is receiving daily updates on the status of Hydro generators, with bi-weekly reports on the progress of capital projects and maintenance work relevant to all Hydro infrastructure.