Power shortage blackout is averted
Low demand stops outages from a cut in reserve capacity
Oahu residents escaped a series of threatened blackouts last night due to a shortage of reserve electricity-generation capacity.
At about 5 p.m., HECO asked residents to reduce power consumption to avoid cutting electricity to customers in Central, Windward and East Oahu from 5 to 9 p.m., and recorded lower-than-expected energy demands as the night wore on.
"We had a lower-than-expected peak demand at 6:48 p.m., probably because of cool weather and the conservation by people. We were not in the situation where we had to turn off any customers, so that was good," said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg.
HECO ran short of power generation at the Kahe Point power plant because a provider cut back supply, three generating units -- two at the Waiau plant and one at Kahe -- were down for maintenance and the remaining five units could not run at full capacity because water coolers were blocked by sea grass dredged up by the recent stormy weather.
The independent power provider, AES Hawaii, returned to full capacity at about 7:30 p.m. "That took a big load off," Rosegg said.
AES Hawaii, which produces power by burning coal, had been running at 50 percent of capacity since 2 p.m., generating 90 megawatts instead of its normal 180, said Vice President Pat Murphy.
Plant officials reduced power production while the problem was repaired, and were investigating the cause yesterday.
IMAGE COURTESY OF KITV
An image from television shows sea grass clogging Hawaiian Electric Co. power-generator cooling units. CLICK FOR LARGE
The three generators at the Kahe and Waiau power plants had been shut down for scheduled maintenance and could not be returned to operation because parts were removed, said Lynne Unemori, HECO vice president of corporate relations.
Unemori said dropping customers is a precautionary measure to prevent overloading the system.
"If you are overloading the system, then it's possible that the generator would be damaged, which could mean even longer and wider-spread outages," she said.
HECO workers were busy clearing sea grass using their hands and rakes from filters and condenser tubes in the cooling system at the Kahe plant, which was running at a lower capacity because of the hindered cooling system.
With one generator out for service, the five remaining generators were reduced to less than half capacity to allow cleaning of the cooling system.
"We don't anticipate problems tomorrow but we'll monitor the situation," Rosegg said. "We're still dealing with this sea grass at Kahe power plant. We hope that we're on the downward curve with that. We'll know by tomorrow whether we're heading in the right direction on that stuff."
Bellows closed over falling-branches hazard
Bellows Field Beach Park and the Waimanalo Bay Recreational Area have been closed until further notice after high winds damaged trees in the area, creating the hazard of falling branches.
Both parks will remain closed on a day-to-day basis until officials determine the areas are safe for the public, the city Department of Parks and Recreation said in a news release.
Work crews will work extended hours to clear hanging tree branches and other debris.
The department said it will notify campers with permits for Bellows, which normally opens for the weekend at noon Fridays, of the closure.