– new generators likely by December
Blackouts have been a decades-old feature in Guyana, but the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is moving, one area at a time, to make this a thing of the past.
One such area is Anna Regina, on the Essequibo Coast, and indications are that if all goes as planned, residents will have a blackout-free Christmas.
Chairman of the GPL Board, Robert Badal during an interview with the media, said the introduction of new technology will “once and for all put an end to blackouts down there.”
He said that three new generation units are being procured for Anna Regina, so when one shuts off, another kicks in. These generation sets, according to Badal, can use Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) or Low Fuel Oil (LFO). Interestingly, Badal explained that the sets can also utilise renewable energy such as solar energy.
The three units are German-made and are expected to be shipped by the end of August from Turkey. “Hopefully, we are aiming to have them in place by early December. That will once and for all put an end to blackouts down there because of the new technology.”
Moreover, the GPL Chairman explained that some areas along the Essequibo Coast are 50 cycle and some are 60. However, he said that efforts are being made to convert those 50 cycles areas into 60 cycle zones similar to other parts of the country.
For the rest of the Essequibo coast, Badal said that 1.7Megawatt generators are being bought for the area and three one-Megawatt units are being purchased for Bartica to ensure reliability.
Speaking on the issue of blackouts countrywide, he said that 80 to 90 percent of the blackouts are called ‘trips’, and that on the coast, there are miles and miles of open conductors (cables) that tend to touch each other during the rainy weather or when it is windy.
He said that this collision causes the system to ‘trip’; however if the situation isn’t something serious, the system shuts off for 10 minutes, after which the electricity supply is restored.
“If a fault persists, then it triggers a maintenance team to go and look at it. So I think 80 to 90 percent of the blackouts are due to the faults. You would see it (power) coming back in 10 minutes.”
These instances occur simply because that is how the system was designed, Badal remarked. In terms of correctional measures, the GPL Chairman said that equipment is being procured.
“Since late last year we understood the problems after I called an engineering meeting with a lot of the engineers within GPL and we agreed to put in some new equipment like what we call automatic re-closures, so when the system detects a fault, if there is no fault, it comes back within seconds. So you won’t feel a black out; Automatic re-closures, fault detection sensors would identify faults quicker and isolate it within a shorter band.”
He explained that presently, if there is a problem at a substation, the communities which that location serves with power will be affected. However, with the fault detection sensors, the company would be able to identify a smaller area, which would be the only one affected.
Badal also revealed that blackouts are more common in areas with a lot of vegetation. However, ‘trips’ also occur when vehicles hit down poles.
Badal said that this problem is common in all utility companies. He further expounded that another reason why Guyana suffers from blackouts is the absence of redundancy (back-up) electricity lines, just in case one line shuts off.
“Our system was not made with a redundancy line to ensure that reliability but now we are looking at those areas.” Ultimately, he said that GPL’s challenge with blackouts is more of a distribution of electricity problem than the generation of electricity.
“You see, generation is much more reliable. The problem we have is the grid itself…that was built in pieces; not like it was built with one design to today’s technology. We have a very old grid, old cables. In some cases we have transformers and the transformers are oversized. All those things we are trying to rectify now. So we’re spending lots of money on the grid now, with the infrastructure development programme that we have.”
Earlier this month, residents and business owners on the Essequibo Coast had complained about the persistent blackouts they were experiencing, with Charity seeming to be the most affected. According to reports reaching this newspaper, the community had been without electricity for as long as five days.
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