Power outages hit thousands of residents
Two power outages hit 11,000 homes across the Island yesterday, sparking one frustrated mother to say: “This is unacceptable, and an embarrassment to Bermuda.”
The resident, from the Knapton Hill area of Smith’s, has been hit by five blackouts in just over a month. She said she spent 40 minutes on hold before speaking to someone at Belco on the telephone.
“Something must be wrong at Belco, though they say ‘nothing is wrong’,” she told The Royal Gazette. “Bermuda does not appeal to tourists and international businesses when the power goes out with no explanation. I was in the middle of cooking lunch for my two children when it happened, and we wanted to watch the Olympics.”
Her complaint came as two outages the eighth and ninth of the year so far affected thousands of homes.
Belco spokeswoman Susan McGrath-Smith said an engine at the Central Plant shut down at 9.30am yesterday, knocking out power to 3,000 customers. They were all back on by around 11am. However, another problem soon hit.
“Another major engine tripped just after noon, leaving about 8,000 customers without power. About half had of these customers had power restored by approximately 1.30pm,” said Mrs McGrath-Smith. The rest were restored by 2.40pm.
Among the other customers affected was the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association in Middle Road, Devonshire, which had to abandon its Red Hot Summer Squash Classic.
Director of Squash Patrick Foster said: “We were forced to abandon the squash event today after two power cuts, the second of which, after nearly two hours of waiting and no news from Belco, forced us to abandon matches.”
Mrs McGrath-Smith said there have been nine outages across the Island so far in 2012, including yesterday’s. That compares to six at this time last year, and a total of 11 for the whole of 2011. There were 14 power outages in 2010.
“As a result of today’s load shed, we are working to fix a specific problem on one of our base load engines, including bringing the manufacturers’ representatives in from overseas,” she said.
She explained: “Load is shed from the system to protect it. The circuits that are shed are chosen in rotations. Circuits that serve critical customers are never included in the rotations such as King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the airport.”
Mrs McGrath-Smith added: “We apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused by today’s events, and encourage conservation over the next 24 hours as we work to restore plant capacity.”
Asked what caused the problems, Mrs McGrath-Smith replied: “Today’s engine failures were due to unrelated mechanical problems. In addition today, urgent repairs were being carried out on other engines, which meant that generating capacity was lower than normal. In addition, load on Belco’s system has been high for a Sunday, with demand at about 105 megawatts.”
She said of the mother in Knapton Hill: “The switch that feeds her property has been affected by five load sheds this year, compared with one in 2011 and one in 2010. While we have explained that outages are investigated by our engineers, we have not said ‘there is nothing wrong’. Clearly, there is a problem whenever we have a load shed or any equipment failure.”
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