Hawaii County

Low production cuts
Big Island power supply

Generators shut down for repairs
caused the electricity shortage

By Craig Gima

Rolling blackouts cut off power to about 3,100 customers on the Big Island yesterday, despite conservation measures by large users of electricity like hotels and the county water and sewage departments.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. President Warren Lee said demand for electricity exceeded supply because of problems with private power producers and its own generators.

The weather yesterday was hot, and by 12:30 p.m. air conditioning drove demand so high that rolling blackouts could not be avoided, he said.

"It (electrical power) just went out," said Lot Kawaauhau, the assistant manager at Island Market in Naalehu. "We don't run on generators, so we had to close our store."

Kawaauhau said the power outage occurred just after lunch and lasted for about an hour. He complained that the blackouts are affecting his sales.

"Customers were out there waiting, but then they gave up and went out," he said. "You can't make money like that."

The blackouts affected customers in North Kona along Hawaii Belt Highway, in Kau from South Point to Sea Mountain in Punaluu, and in South Kona.

Hamakua Energy Partners, a private company that produces and sells electricity to HELCO, had to shut down more than half of its capacity to 28 megawatts from 60 megawatts yesterday to fix a leak in a boiler. Puna Geothermal Ventures, which usually supplies 30 megawatts, has been producing only five megawatts until a new well can be drilled and was down to zero yesterday because of maintenance, Lee said. Five 2.5-megawatt HELCO generators also went down.

After the two-hour period of rolling blackouts yesterday afternoon, HELCO was able to get four of its five small generators working again, Lee said.

The repairs to the Hamakua Energy Partners unit should be completed by Monday before the next period of peak demand when people return to work on Tuesday, he said.

Lee said the Big Island experiences two periods of peak demand for electricity during the day. The first starts in midmorning and goes through midday, he said. The second is in the early evening when people come home and start cooking.

Lee said hotels and other customers were asked to turn their thermostats higher and turn off lights yesterday morning. The water and sewage departments were also asked to reduce their pumping needs.

County of Hawaii

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