Rotating outages end after power disruption at Holyrood plant

Newfoundland Power says a sudden loss of supply from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro knocked out electricity in eastern and central areas of Newfoundland.

Consumers urged to curb demand; schools in St. John's area close for day

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said there were problems Wednesday morning with two units at its Holyrood generating station. (CBC)

Newfoundland Power says a sudden loss of power supply from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro on Wednesday morning knocked out electricity for thousands of customers in eastern and central areas of Newfoundland.

Hydro, a Crown corporation that generates electricity that privately operated Newfoundland Power then sells to customers, said it had experienced "a system status power emergency" involving its Holyrood station, west of St. John's.

The disruption prompted Newfoundland Power to put rotating outages into effect as it tried to manage supply amid freezing temperatures.

About 80,000 customers were without power when the outage first happened, but Hydro said by noon Wednesday, power had been restored to all customers and rotating outages ended.

It also caused schools in the St. John's metro area to close for the day.

Unexpected circumstances

Rob Henderson, a vice-president at Hydro, said three different factors contributed to the Wednesday's outages.

Unit one at Holyrood at been offline since Friday for repairs to an oil leak. It had been expected back online early Wednesday morning but was delayed, according to Henderson.

In addition, he said the new $120-million combustion turbine required some small work to a fuel valve. It was expected to be online at 6 a.m., but that was also delayed due to the fixes.

Henderson said while all that was going on, demand on the system was increasing and unit three at Holyrood tripped.

Shortly after the initial outage, Henderson said the combustion turbine was brought online and power was almost immediately restored for some customers.

Henderson said Hydro didn't notify customers about unit one being offline since Friday, because there were no issues with generation capacity and meeting customer demand.

He added that Hydro apologized for the loss of power for some customers, and the Crown corporation will release a full report about the outages.

New turbine in operation

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said there were problems with two units at its Holyrood generating station, and that its newly purchased combustion turbine had been put in operation resulting in electricity coming back on for some customers.

Dawn Dalley, VP of corporate relations and customer service with Nalcor, said the problem had to do with a unit trip at the Holyrood generating station around 7 a.m.

"We had a unit off for repairs, which is not uncommon during the operating season, and we had another unit trip which meant that we dropped customers on the east coast," she said.

Dalley said the unit was offline for a "planned emergency repair," when the second unit tripped.

According to Dalley, Hydro will do a full investigation into the outages and whether or not anything could have been done differently to prevent the outages.

Dalley said it's unlikely that Wednesday's frigid temperatures contributed to the outages.

"The demand is higher, but that shouldn't have any impact," she said.

"We'll see once we do the investigation, but there was an issue on the unit that tripped."

She added that Hydro doesn't need customers to continue energy conservation measures, because the system is back to meeting customer demand.

Affected areas

Outages were being reported across the Avalon Peninsula, around Clarenville and in central Newfoundland, with 30,000 customers affected, according to Newfoundland Power.

Communities affected include St. John's, Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Bonavista, Gambo, Gander and more.

Newfoundland Power posted the following picture on its website, showing the affected areas.

Outages listed in central and eastern Newfoundland, as of 7:50 a.m. Monday morning. (NFPower)

The province's school board announced that all schools in the St. John's region would have a delayed opening by two hours as a result of the outages.

In many cases, students were already on buses on their way to school when the closure announcement was made. 

Tony Stack, assistant director of education operations with the province's English school district, said the timing of the outages was unfortunate, but the board did the best they could.

"We apologize for the fuss and confusion," he said.

"By 7:30 you assume things are safe and ready to go, but this hit us suddenly."

He said in cases where a young child may have already been en route to their school, the board took the appropriate measures to ensure their safety. 

For students who were already dropped off at schools, Stack said those schools ensured the students had rides home.

"In some cases parents may have dropped off students, and then we put the word out through our communication means for them to come retrieve the children.

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