Jul 16, 2013 News
More than 37,000 customers of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) were on Sunday forced to endure a prolonged power outage but according to the officials of the utility company, it was a necessary step as the company nears completion of the current upgrade of its distribution network.
The scheduled extended blackout saw Georgetown and sections of the East Coast and East Bank Demerara without power for several hours as technicians worked to link the brand new substation aback of the Sophia station to the main grid.
Sunday’s city wide blackout was the last of its kind but this does not mean the end of scheduled outages in the near future.
The GPL Infrastructure Development Progamme officials yesterday met with members of the media to provide an update on the works. Among them were Senior Divisional Director for Operations and Projects, Colin Singh; China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation representative, Andrew Jin Project Manager, Gail Best; and Operations and Planning Engineer for Systems Control at Sophia, Kempton France.
Singh, in providing an update on the works which is funded through a US$40M concessional Loan from the China EXIM (Export/Import) Bank, explained that the massive outage was to enable the “connection of the existing facility to the new facility as well as to connect a new substation being constructed at North Ruimveldt to the Sophia Substation.”
The Infrastructure Development Programme entails the construction of seven new substations, the upgrade of three existing substations as well as the installation of some 96 kilometres of 69KV transmission cables.
The substations allow for the step down of electricity from the 69,000 volts to 13,000 volts at the various points.
Singh explained that Sunday’s exercise entailed a modification and expansion of the Sophia substation which serves as the hub for electricity distribution.
The Sophia works represented the second of the three upgrades, according to Singh. The first was completed last November in Edinborough, Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara. The third is to be undertaken at Onverwagt in West Berbice. This is scheduled to commence in one week, according to Singh.
He said that while there are some outstanding works still to be completed at Sophia, there will not be a complete shutdown, as was the case on Sunday.
It was explained that with the facilities coming on stream in Sophia, namely a “new sectionalized bus-bar,” the Power Company now has the ability to isolate sections of the grid for shutdown and as such, when necessary those locations would be isolated and taken offline as against the massive shutdown that obtained on Sunday.
Project Manager, Gail Best, told members of the media that works on the ‘nerve centre’ for GPL in Sophia were largely successful despite some minor delays.
This was in part due to weather and the testing of the system before going back online.
She explained that weather played a factor given that technicians had to be working atop utility poles. “We had to take some pause.”
The actual works had been completed just about an hour before schedule but it was the testing that caused the additional delays and this was completed by 19:00hrs at which point in time the system was repowered.
She used the opportunity to caution customers that the “outage was just to allow us to progress from step A to set B.”
According to Best, “It’s not the end-all of the outage, however with the sectionalized bus-bar that we have in place we wouldn’t be shutting down the plant ever again…we will be isolating sections to allow us to proceed with our works.”
Operations and Planning Engineer for Systems Control at Sophia, Kempton France, informed members of the media that with the new distribution network in place, an immediate benefit to consumers would be the supply of a much more stable supply of electricity.
At present GPL utilizes very long feeders from Sophia to as far as 20 miles along the East Coast of Demerara.
“As a result of the length of the feeder there is a significant level of voltage drops which would cause consumers to have fluctuation in voltage.”
France said that with the implementation of the Good Hope substation the feeders will be shorter and “that will definitely mean a better quality of voltage…the voltage supplied will be much more stable.”
In alluding to additional benefits of the bus-bar that was installed, he said that as the company progresses with the upgrades, the frequency and duration of outages experienced would be greatly reduced.
The overall project is slated to be completed at the end of this year.
“All in all we were very sorry for the delay; we know customers were frustrated but we are asking that you be patient with us…it’s all in an effort to improve the quality of service,” pleaded France.
He did indicate that when the substation is completed at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara, at the time of its commissioning there will be the need for another outage affecting consumers along the coast.
That substation is expected to be completed by the end of August. Contractor, Andrew Jin told members of the media that the cost of maintenance of the new network inclusive of the substations would be “minimal.”
The contract with the Chinese has in a place a one-year ‘defects liability period’ that would obligate it within that time frame to remedy any hiccups that may be presented.
He said that while it is difficult to place a lifespan on the substation, they can be easily utilised for two to three decades.
According to Jin, technology is constantly developing and evolving and as such it would be up to the company to decide when it would no longer be economically feasible to keep the system.
Once maintained properly, Jin said the substation can be in operation for very long periods.
He reminded that as against a generation plant or factory there aren’t moving parts that would cause wear and tear.
He said that what would need to be addressed over time would be the parts deteriorating.
Guyana in 2008 inked the Memorandum of Understanding with the EXIM Bank of China that paved the way for that institution giving financial support to the tune of US$40M at concessional rates, for the GPL upgrade.
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