Island-wide outage hits NP amid impact from Dorian

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As scores of residents in New Providence struggled to keep flood waters out of their homes today after Hurricane Dorian dumped several inches rainfall across the island, residents were left powerless for much of the day due an island-wide outage.

As of 7 p.m. Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) said it had only returned power to 30 per cent of its customers.

“We are working through the aftermath of flooding on the island, and remained determined to safely and securely return the entire island to service,” the power provider said.

“In addition to our efforts to bring the island back from blackout conditions, we are also dealing with dozens of emergency calls at this time for incidents, including downed power lines, blown transformers and a pole fire.

“Nonetheless, the team continues to work steadily to bring people back to service.”

By 11 p.m., 80 per cent of consumers were back on the grind.

BPL pointed out that tropical storm conditions are expected to linger in the norther Bahamas until approximately 1 a.m. tomorrow.

“Residents should exercise extreme caution,” the power company noted. “Stay away from down power lines, and drive with due care and attention, if you must drive at all.”

In a statement around 8 a.m., BPL said a system fault at one its primary substations was believed to have been caused due to “moisture ingress”.

BPL said this led to a chain of events, culminating in a total island-wide outage.

The power company advised consumers that its teams were working to return power, but it was still “balancing load demands” with the capacity available in the system with its primary substation offline.

It said the first circuit reenergized around 7:29 a.m., but tripped out shortly after.

Today, while many customers expressed frustration at the power company, lamenting the hours-long outage and questioning BPL’s claimed preparedness, others called on the public to reflect and juxtapose the dire conditions facing residents in Grand Bahama and Abaco, who continued to be pummeled by Dorian, a Category 4 storm causing sea surges between 18 and 23 feet.

Ahead of Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Abacos directly on Sunday and continues to linger over Grand Bahama, lashing the island with 145 mile-per-hour winds, BPL said it was “confident” that it had made sufficient preparation for the storm.

“Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd. is confident that its preparations ahead of Tropical Storm Dorian have placed the utility in good stead as the storm continues its approach,” BPL said in a statement.

According to BPL, its overhead services department was reviewing all overhead transmission infrastructure to ensure the lines were free from trees, as part of its pre-hurricane season check.

“They are also verifying the availability of contractors, former employees and others who can assist with restoration following a storm,” BPL said.

New Providence has received tropical storm force winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in numerous communities.

Load shedding

BPL suspended load shedding on Saturday, but the reprieve was short lived as the power company reinitiated the exercise in New Providence, Saturday night, plunging thousands of consumers into darkness.

In a notice to consumers around 7:40 p.m. Saturday, BPL indicated that there were a number of generation challenges affecting the grid, prompting load shedding in portions of eastern and western New Providence in three-hour intervals.

The power company apologized for the short notice and the inconvenience to consumers.

BPL has been persistently load shedding since June due to a 40-megawatt generation shortfall, the result of two downed generators.

The shortfall today was an estimated seven-megawatts.

BPL had 213 megawatts of generation, while the expected demand was 215-megawatts with an expected peak of 220-megawatts.

The power company said it has continued work on the downed units, which represented 44-megawatts of power.

It was expected to complete repairs on a 21-megawatt generator yesterday, however, attempts to start the generator today failed.

A specialist was engaged to troubleshoot the unit.

A 23-megawatt generator was expected to be repaired by September 6.

While machining work on the unit was completed by another specialist, it did not pass subsequent attempts to start. A component was ordered for the unit and expected to take a week to arrive. The timeline for repairs was also be reassessed.

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has said the government will spare no expense in resolving the power woes facing New Providence. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has called the power situation a “crisis”.