Dark start to 2015

LIHUE — Whether they knew it or not, Kauai residents and visitors spent the first several hours of 2015 in total darkness.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative kicked off the New Year with an islandwide power outage just 23 minutes in.

“No one recalls a New Year’s Eve outage unrelated to weather,” KIUC spokesman Jim Kelly said Thursday. “Definitely not the way we wanted to start the new year but we hope most people were home asleep and that few were inconvenienced.”

The outage occurred at 12:23 a.m. Thursday when the co-op’s largest generator, at the Kapaia Power Station near Lihue, automatically shut down after its control system detected a fault. The cause of the fault is under investigation.

KIUC said that because demand for electricity is relatively low in the early-morning hours, the Kapaia plant was supplying most of the island’s power at the time. Power was restored to some of the utility’s 33,000 customers by 3 a.m.

With the exception of a section of Puhi, where some damaged equipment required replacement, power was restored by 5:40 a.m.

At 11 a.m., some parts of Lihue were affected by a second outage that lasted about 30 minutes, according to a release.

The cause was a transformer in the Lihue switchyard that was affected by the earlier outage. The transformer was taken offline.

Kelly said Thursday’s mishap is the first major power failure since the “infamous chicken.”

In September, a chicken got into co-op equipment at the Kapaa switchyard, tripping the circuit breakers and causing an outage that spanned from Kapaa to Haena and affected about 13,000 of KIUC’s 33,000 customers.

Thursday’s blackout was the first islandwide outage since an incident May 8, which resulted from a failed fuel valve at KIUC’s Port Allen Generating Station.

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