Island-wide outage, the result of an illegal dumper

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The driver of a large heavy-duty truck that was reportedly illegally dumping off Coral Harbour Road was directly responsible for Tuesday’s island-wide blackout, which left thousands of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) customers without power for hours, much to their frustration.

At around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday electricity to New Providence was severed.

BPL said it was investigating the cause of the island-wide blackout.

Numerous residents reported being offline for over five hours.

Providing an explanation of the latest major power disruption to plague New Providence, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, who has ministerial responsibility for the power company, said the outage was not caused by historic generation of transmission challenges, but by a heavy-duty truck colliding with a lamp pole.

This resulted in a 132,000-volt power line that is largely responsible for the distribution of power on the island, and stretches from the Clifton Pier Power Station to the Blue Hills Power Station, being damaged.

“It was clear that yesterday sir a heavy-duty vehicle was engaged in illegal dumping within the easement and came too close to one of the transmission poles,” Bannister advised Parliament.

“That impact caused the 132,000-volt lines to clash into each other, thereby imposing a major fault on the transmission network.

“The result was that generation at both power stations tripped offline, thereby causing a total island wide outage.

“Initial assessment on the network in preparation to restart the generators very quickly identified on the Clifton Pier and Blue Hill’s line as the circuit which initiated the outage event.

“A follow-up patrol by our line crews to ascertain the cause of the trouble located the damaged pole and dumped debris within our way leave, just east of the Coral Harbour Road.

“The remainder of the line was checked and confirmed to be healthy by the team.

“Once the impacted circuit was isolated, operations teams began the process of restoring the remainder of the network.

“The first generator was put back online at the Blue Hills Power Station within 20 minutes of the outage, energizing that network.

“The first set of customers were restored shortly thereafter.”

According to officials, after two hours approximately 85 percent of customers were restored.

Yesterday, the minister explained that there was a delay in the restoration process while teams worked to restore the final generator.

He said all customers should have been restored by 5 p.m.

However, a further outage occurred in Solider Road area, which required a primary substation to be isolated to rectify “high voltage cable termination”.

“Mr. Speaker, while we were all inconvenienced yesterday, we are thankful that power was restored as quickly as possible, however sir, this incident could have ended up very tragically for the truck driver had his vehicle impacted that pole just inches from the actual point of impact,” the minister said.

“Accordingly, I am obliged to warn persons not to engage in this illegal conduct as they could be taking their lives into their hands.”

Bannister held up several blown-up photos of the debris dumped and the impacted pole.

Though the pole remained erect, it had a large concave.

Inches to the right of the large depression in the pole, rests a thick grounding cable.

Bannister said, “If he had hit that, just inches here, he would have been fried because all of the power that should have been coming through the lines, coming into the city, ended up coming back and coming back into the ground here. Inches away and you would have had someone in their truck, fried today.”

It remains unclear how much the damage cost BPL.

It also remains to be seen whether the individual responsible will be located.

As of approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday, BPL said it had to reinitiate load shedding.

Bannister did not address the continued load shedding exercises.

Amid the outage Tuesday, scores of frustrated BPL customers lamented the company’s failure to keep the lights on and demanded compensation, reflected on their bills for the prolonged and persistent outages over the last several weeks.

The Utilities Regulations and Competition Authority (URCA) has said it will investigate the recent power outages as a “high priority”.

BPL has experienced numerous challenges on New Providence and the Family Islands as a result of generation shortfalls or equipment-related failure over the years.