Power outage affects neighborhoods across island

Kauai Power Partners has first equipment failure. A 13-minute power outage Monday morning may have been a short inconvenience, but it was Kauai Power Partners’ first equipment-related outage since starting operations last September, according to KPP plant manager Randy Hee.

Areas from Kekaha to Hanalei were affected starting at about 10:02 a.m., and outages were reported at Kukui Grove Shopping Center, stoplights in Kapa’a Town, Lydgate Beach Park, neighborhoods in Kalaheo, Kapa’a, Kilauea, Wailua Homesteads, Kaumakani, Kekaha, Koloa and Kapahi.

Randy Hee, Kaua’i Power Partners plant manager and KIUC board member, was in Tennessee with other KIUC board members for a national rural utilities meeting when the power went out.

In a call from the meeting, Hee said the 26.4 megawatt generator in Kapaia, which runs on either naptha or diesel, experienced a signal failure from a faulty cable. The Kapaia facility is under contract to provide power to the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative.

“The price of fuel is the only thing affecting rates,” said Ann Barnes, public relations, when asked if having to turn on extra KIUC generators would affect rates.

The KPP generator tripped once since its opening due to human error, but this outage was due to a defective sensor, Hee said.

“We do a lot of preventative maintenance and we have redundancies, and going forward we’ll look at these things and see if it’s something we need to change,” Hee said.

“It could go back online right now, but since it went down I’m having the guys double-check a few things, ” Hee said at about 1:30 p.m. According to a power plant worker, the unit was running at about half capacity at 6:30 p.m.

When a generator goes down, the circuit breakers around the island have to reduce or stop distributing power until backup generators can start up.

As for the 13 minutes that passed before power was restored, “that’s not a concern,” Barnes said, “It took about 10-15 minutes for the gas turbines to gear up. Not a problem.”

KIUC says it’s not a problem because at Port Allen, KIUC runs 12 other generators, some of which are on at any given moment, that can pick up the slack in a matter of minutes.

Monday, when the KPP generator went down, a 23.7 megawatt gas turbine was turned on and a steam generator’s load was increased to 9 megawatts, said Ed Nakaya, KIUC’s power plant relations specialist. The island’s energy demand is about 55 megawatts. The two units KIUC had to turn on picked up the load that was lost by the KPP unit, Nakaya added.

KIUC engineers have to decide which areas are going to be affected first. Stoplights in Kapa’a were turned off, because unlike hospitals and many businesses, the state Department of Transportation apparently did not have backup power.

“Just as backup power to your computer is your kuleana, backup power is up to the owner for any given light,” Barnes said, “Obviously it is the job of KIUC power but we did our job well.”

Though stoplights went out in Kapa’a town, no motor vehicle accidents were reported, according to the Kaua’i Police Department’s 9-11 dispatch.

“We have good drivers here,” said Patrol Services Bureau Assistant Chief Clay Arinaga, “At one time we had no stoplights and we got by.”

“Whenever you lose generation, there has to be some logic to the system for what goes off and what stays on. That schedule is reviewed and adjusted by engineers so that the same breaker is not going off first all the time,” Nakaya said.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at mailto:kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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