Jan. 23, 2004 – Power was restored to St. Thomas and St. John on Friday afternoon after having been out most of the morning, according to Alberto Bruno-Vega, Water and Power Authority executive director. But he warned that more outages may lie ahead in coming months and that WAPA will be running a "tight ship" until a large new generator comes on line, as it is projected to do next fall.
"We are in a very, very precarious situation until Units 2 and 15 come back on line," he said Friday afternoon, adding: "They could be out of service for two months."
Friday's power failures resulted, Bruno-Vega said, because "we lost Unit 18, and that triggered a domino effect on Unit 22 and Unit 14. That put 50 percent of the load on St. Thomas and St. John out."
He said WAPA was "able to restore 14 and again bring Unit 12 back on line and, eventually, Unit 22. We are working on Unit 18 as we speak." By bringing up Units 12 and 14, "we were able to pick up all loads."
Complicating matters, he said, "a week or so ago, we lost Unit 15. Since then, we have been trying to find a replacement load gear, whose function is to lower the speed from the compressor to the turbine. We've been trying to replace that, searching internationally. Unfortunately, that could take two months. That means in the next months we are going to be running the system in a very, very tight condition."
Meanwhile, Unit 11 also is out of service for several weeks while a broken rotor is being replaced.
Bruno-Vega did have one bit of positive news: WAPA has received a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency for pre-permit construction work on Unit 23, the $17.5 million "Frame 6" combustion turbine generator that the authority was cleared by the Public Services Commission to purchase last year. "It has been approved, with the effective date March 1," he said. "We are grateful to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the delegate for applying pressure to get this done. It had to get the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency."
Bruno-Vega noted while the waiver means construction on the new unit can begin as of March 1, "that's just the first phase." He said WAPA expects to have the generator in operation in the fall."We're keeping our fingers crossed," he said.
Authority officials project that once Unit 23 is on line, the utility will be able to meet peak demand with its two largest units out of service.
A release issued by WAPA late Friday afternoon stated that the morning outages began at 10:45 a.m. with Unit 18 tripping out "when a relay on the cooling fan breaker failed," making a total of three units out of service. Then Unit 14, and then the large Unit 22 also tripped, it stated.
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