On Feb. 9, 2018 the Port aux Basques council met with Newfoundland Power officials to discuss the power interruption of Feb. 5, 2018, which for a large section of town lasted some 22 hours.
The focus of the discussion was the Channel area since before the most recent interruption there were two others on Dec. 13, 2016 and Jan. 24, 2017 lasting 16 hours and four and half hours.
Council wanted to know what Newfoundland Power could do to ensure such long periods without power in a section of town would not be repeated in the future.
Newfoundland Power felt it was important that council understood that no two power outages were the same. Newfoundland Power had a plan for the energizing critical load in the PAB area. This worked well during the last outing.
In the future, if the system conditions are different, such as damages to the distribution system, then the response to how the town will be energized will be different. In this particular outage, it was a NL Hydro break, out of the hands of Newfoundland Power.
In relation to a discussion on the rotation of power that many residents felt should have been done in the last outage, Newfoundland Power responded by stating it was important to remember it was difficult to compare generation capabilities of today with 20 to 30 years ago.
Many factors affecting power generation have changed. Customers’ loads have increased. The number of customers has increased. Customers’ tolerances for voltage/frequency will drop during the initial pick up.
Newer electronics can be affected by these swings. The older equipment and electronics found in homes allowed for greater swings, thus was easier to add loads in the older systems. Today's electronic/cyber world has impacted individual demand per household at a higher level than it was 30 years ago.
As stated above, the latest outage saw the critical areas identified by council and Newfoundland Power in an earlier meeting receive power. These were the hospital, water treatment plant, RCMP, communication tower, seniors’ home, fuel supply for generators, Lions centre, fire hall and town hall. Council's disappointment was the inability to rotate.
The generation available within our region at that time were the Rose Blanche hydro plant, the Port aux Basques substation, and the Grand Bay substation with its mobile gas and mobile diesel generators. These sources in the immediate zone put total generation capacity on Feb. 5 at 15.5 MW. Standard industry practice for demand would be 80 per cent to allow for changes in the system. At one point during the interruption it peaked at 13 MW, which was above standard ceiling.
Once a system is loaded, adding new sections or rotating power can be difficult. When customers, such as the Channel area, were without power for long periods, the demand can be twice as high as normal. In the industry it is known as a cold load pickup (CLP). During the Feb. 5 outage the CLP was 88 per cent higher than normal.
Using this percentage, it would mean that Newfoundland Power would have to take power away from 200 customers to energize 100 customers. Channel had 490 customers.
Moving forward, Newfoundland Power will complete the planning and necessary work to transfer the Lion's warming centre with the hospital load. Newfoundland Power and the town will look for ways to get power conservation messages out to residents. Newfoundland Power will continue the necessary engineering and work to improve the ability to energize the downtown sections on the isolated system and will discuss the recent outage in the Doyles region with NL Hydro and inquire about any plans for maintenance to avert outages in the area.
The future should bring some relief on a temporary power supply with the acquisition of a generator for the fire hall. This would allow for a second warming centre, plus keep emergency equipment ready to move eliminating a demand on the grid.
There is also a generator planned for the water treatment plant. This will free up the grid for other areas within town.
We must remember, Newfoundland Power will energize critical loads as identified by the town first. Newfoundland Power will not target other customers outside of this list, but some customers will receive power due to the location in relation to these critical loads and the location of the switches.
This results in locations where one side of the street has power while the other does not.
John Spencer, mayor
Channel-Port aux Basques