GPL gives fresh assurance on blackouts

The Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) attributes about 90 percent of blackouts to “trips” in the distribution grid and says that it has already set plans in place to remedy the situation and give its customer uninterrupted power.

“Since last year we understood the problem, after I had called a meeting with the engineers within GPL, and we agreed to put in new equipment like automatic reclosures and fault detection sensors…” Chairman of the power company, Robert Badal told Stabroek News yesterday when asked about the situation.

In recent months GPL has been hit by shutdowns of its Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System which has seen blackouts across the city and along the coast.

Only last week an insulator at the Sophia plant was damaged and caused power interruptions in Berbice and Demerara.

Badal said that that speedy work by GPL saw the power  back on in about four and a half hours although he explained that most blackouts are caused by trips in the system.

“I would say that 80 or 90 percent of the blackouts are what we call trips…The way the system is designed is if a fault is on the coast, and given the nature of the coast because most people live on the coast and we have miles and miles of cables, when there is heavy rainfall and heavy winds it touches the cable and it’s a fault. If there is not really a fault the system shuts off for ten minutes. If a fault persists it triggers a maintenance team to go look at it. We inherited that. That was the way the system was designed,” he explained.

“What we are doing about that now is that we are bringing in some equipment. So when the system detects no fault it would come back within seconds so you won’t feel the blackout. We are bringing automatic reclosures, fault detention sensors… which will be able to identify faults quicker and isolate it … quicker… As it is now if a problem happens at a substation, all the communities served by that substation will be affected. But with these detection sensors, we will identify (the fault and limit it) to a smaller area so it is not the entire area that will be affected,” he added.

He said that the company has already gotten quotes on prices and has placed orders.

The GPL Chairman believes that some areas are more prone to power outages because of the high vegetation affecting lines and thus causing the trips.

He pointed to sections of the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara while noting that in Guyana there are no backup lines.

“We don’t have redundant lines where when one line shuts off, another kicks in. Our system wasn’t designed with redundancy lines to ensure that reliability but now we are looking at those areas. The problem has not been much of a generation problem but distribution. The problem is the grid itself. We have a very old grid. We had a grid built in pieces not in total,” he said.

“All those things we are trying to rectify now and spending more money on the grid itself,” he added.

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