By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday announced a $1.2m allocation for infrastructural upgrades at Bahamas Power and Light's Clifton Pier substation.
Addressing the June 25 island-wide outage, where a lightning strike disabled the station's entire system, Mr Bannister yesterday said the station's transformer cable box and switch gear will have to be replaced as a result of the incident.
According to the Carmichael MP, equipment at the substation is extremely old and should have been replaced years ago.
He said during the weather event, one major transmission line, the Skyline 132,000-volt overhead line, was struck by lightning and tripped, resulting in outages in western and southern New Providence.
Mr Bannister said the system was starting to recover from this event when a flash over occurred in the 33,000-volt cable box of the primary transformer at the Clifton Pier Plant.
He added that, given the location of the transformer, it would have been imperative that a fault of this nature be immediately and automatically isolated from the system to avoid a shutdown.
For this reason, Mr Bannister acknowledged the transformer is controlled by a 33,000-volt circuit breaker.
He added that despite the circuit protection recognising the fault, the circuit breaker did not open to isolate the problem, resulting in the protection of the online generation at Clifton Pier tripping those units offline to safeguard them.
Mr Bannister said: "Accordingly, BPL is not able to find parts for the equipment, and therefore additional back up protection, such as circuit breaker failure protection, was not available to provide further isolation of the fault.
"As a result, the problem remained connected to the network triggering the shutdown of all remaining online generation at the Blue Hills Plant and the subsequent island-wide outage," he added.
Holding up a blown-up photograph that depicted the torched cable box, Mr Bannister issued an apology for the circumstances that led to the event.
In doing so, he said the legacy issues which have hampered the modernisation of BPL are being addressed by the present regime, namely the infrastructural upgrades which have left the system opened to faults in recent years.
"Substation maintenance teams at Clifton Pier and in-field operations have commenced this effort," Mr Bannister told the House of Assembly yesterday.
"It was the company's intent to replace the switch gear at the Clifton Pier 33 kV Substation B. The needed funding - $1.2m - for this work has been included in the upcoming year's capital budget.
"In the interim however, field operations teams, plant and protection, will assist Clifton Pier in reviewing the functioning of the existing equipment to ensure proper response to fault conditions," he added.
In May, BPL announced plans to contract a foreign expert to gauge its electrical service system for potential instabilities.
In an interview with The Tribune last month, BPL chairwoman Darnell Osborne said the identification of an adequate protection system would be "very high" on that expert's list of things to do.
Her comments came in direct response to the June 25 outage.
The expert was expected to arrive in the Nassau last week.