LIHUE — No more rolling blackouts are expected, but mechanical issues persist at multiple Kauai Island Utility Cooperative facilities, and residents are still being asked to conserve electricity.
KIUC will not be generating power at its normal operating capacity for at least a couple of days, and ongoing repair work at two facilities could stretch into the weekend, according to David Bissell, the utility cooperative’s president.
“It’s gonna be very tight for a little while,” Bissell said, explaining that KIUC should be able to just barely keep up with energy demands as long as no further unexpected problems arise.
“Unless the weather abruptly changes,” he said, “no more rolling blackouts.”
A KIUC press release said both the AES Lawai and Tesla facilities were able to charge their battery systems to 100% on Wednesday, with clear skies across much of the island throughout the day. Forecasts are calling for mostly sunny weather on the leeward and windward sides of the island through Friday.
Two of the island’s three largest generators are down, and another two smaller units are also out of commission — one has to be repaired and another is undergoing regularly scheduled maintenance.
KIUC personnel are working to clean the main generator at the Kapaia facility in Lihue, said Bissell, who added the unit will be restored, “back to spotless,” in preparation for replacement equipment on its way from the mainland.
The Kapaia generator is the largest on the island, and its failure — caused by a frayed 17-year-old cable in the combustion turbine — triggered an islandwide power outage that left Kauai residents without electricity for hours on Sunday afternoon.
Replacement parts for the Kapaia generator are scheduled to arrive today, but the timeline for getting the generator back up and running remains unclear.
“Best case, it gets back into service tomorrow,” Bissell said, adding that repairs will more likely take until Friday or Saturday to complete.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, KIUC engineers are struggling with the main generator at the Port Allen facility.
A KIUC news release said repairs had been completed Wednesday morning on the island’s third-largest generator — a 19.2 megawatt unit at the KIUC Port Allen facility that broke down last week — but according to Bissell, the success was short-lived.
Bissell said replacement parts for the Port Allen generator arrived on schedule Wednesday, but when workers got it started, the unit “made a bad noise” and stopped working again a short time later. The mechanical issues are still being diagnosed, although Bissell said the problem “should be relatively minor.”
When asked whether the generator failures could have been avoided with routine, preventative maintenance, Bissell replied that the equipment malfunction was merely “part of the business.”
“It was an unexpected failure,” he said, explaining that the frayed cable was not one of the parts that normally gets swapped out during annual overhauls on the generator.
Bissell also addressed questions about why KIUC had to send away for parts to repair major components of the electrical supply system instead of having replacement equipment on hand.
According to Bissell, KIUC maintains “millions of dollars of backup equipment,” but having a stockpile that includes spare parts for every piece of machinery is simply not cost effective.