December 20, 2015
All villages are now back on the transmission power
By IRENE NOLAN
is considerably quieter in the area of Light Plant Road in Buxton,
where the diesel generators that have produced the power Hatteras and
Ocracoke have been humming away for the past five days. The
generators were completely shut down at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning when
the islands went back to getting their power from the transmission
Crews working just south of the Bonner Bridge finished splicing the
three cables that carry power across the bridge and down the island
back together yesterday, and then the Cape Hatteras Electric
Cooperative re-energized the transmission lines.
However, Hatteras and Ocracoke remained on generator power overnight, while CHEC tested the transmission lines.
This morning, the cooperative began adding villages to the power load in stages.
First came Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo, at 7 a.m., which required a
30-minute outage. The northern villages were quickly followed by
a very brief outage of fewer than five minutes to add Avon and Buxton.
CHEC had planned to monitor those five villages for several hours
before adding the rest of Hatteras and Ocracoke, but Susan Flythe,
executive vice-president and general manager, said everything went so
well that Frisco, Hatteras village, and Ocracoke were added at 9 a.m.
without even a blip in the power.
Flythe also noted as an aside that the N.C. Electric Membership
Corporation owns the generators, and the half dozen or so workers who
had been here since the switch to generators last Wednesday, Dec. 16,
were eager to get home for family Christmas events.
Cutting the transmission cables, relocating them, and then splicing
them back together is a project that had to be completed before
contractors for the North Carolina Department of Transportation could
begin construction of the replacement for the Bonner Bridge over Oregon
Inlet, which is scheduled for March.
The islands were switched to generator power on Wednesday, Dec. 16, and
CHEC had announced that the project would take seven days -- until
Tuesday, Dec. 22. However, Flythe said the work crews for the
contractor, New River Construction, became faster with each of the
three cables they were required to splice back together. They
were also able to work through Friday's wind and rain.
The weather was mild for the first three days on generator power, but
CHEC managers were concerned about the cold snap that began Friday
night and lasted into this morning.
Temperatures fell to about 40 early Saturday morning, but did not fall as low as forecast on Saturday night.
The generators on the two islands and three that were brought in for
the job were capable of providing 24 megawatts of power. However,
CHEC said a "cushion" was needed and aimed to keep the load at about 20
CHEC managers looked at historical data for a weather forecast similar
to the one for this weekend and were concerned about the load. They
decided to ask members to conserve electricity beginning Friday
night. The cooperative also asked property management companies
to turn off the power at unoccupied rental cottages, so that heat pumps
in those houses would not switch on when temperatures dropped.
Apparently, it all worked as planned. The power load during the day ran
about 10 or 11 MW on the mild days of Wednesday through Friday and on
Saturday, which had a high of only 48 -- and that actually occurred
just before midnight last night.
The highest load was early Saturday morning with 15 megawatts, and
Flythe said the peak load last night and early this morning was only 14
She attributes this to conservation by members, turning off the power
at rental cottages, and the fact that the cold snap was brief and had
been preceded by a week or more of very warm weather.
This morning on Facebook, CHEC was receiving accolades from members for
how seamlessly the five days on generator power had proceeded.
CHEC, in turn, was thanking members who conserved and the crew from
NCEMC who worked around the clock to keep the generators running
"Let the Bonner Bridge construction begin," CHEC noted on its Facebook Page.
The Editor's Blog: It will take a community to support seven days on generators.