Multiple outages reveal multiple problems
Error in WAPA protection system detected
KINGMAN - Roughly 20,000 customers of UES Energy in Kingman were left without power over a two-hour period beginning late Friday morning.
The outages affected nearly all the Kingman metropolitan area east of Western Avenue, including Kingman Regional Medical Center, the Airport Industrial Park, and even the offices of the Daily Miner. According to UES Energy's general manager of electric operations for Mohave County, Bill DeJulio, the only areas of Kingman left unaffected were those serviced by the Griffith substation in the city's southwestern portion, including the Beale Street business district, City Hall and White Cliffs Middle School.
"The affected area is our Hilltop Substation," DeJulio said. "And almost all of Kingman is served from that substation."
Power first went out at about 10:35 a.m., when the Western Area Power Administration experienced a "ground-to-phase fault" in its transmission line between the Hilltop Substation and the Peacock Substation just north of Silver Springs Road, about 30 miles east of Kingman. DeJulio said a ground-to-phase fault occurs when something comes into contact with hot wires, causing the substations to cut the power.
The initial outage lasted only about eight minutes, but DeJulio said WAPA quickly discovered another problem in its system programming when it attempted to isolate the line in order to pinpoint the source of the problem.
"The devices at the substation have these electronic brains and they're programmed for different situations," DeJulio said. "The device operated right when the lines faulted, but when they tried to isolate the fault to test the lines, the protection system wasn't programmed right."
The result, DeJulio said, was intermittent outages that occurred over the next two hours, lasting until 12:20 p.m., when the Hilltop Substation began receiving its power from elsewhere.
"Our Hilltop Substation is being served in a different direction that it's usually served, but we're in good shape until (WAPA) solves their other problems," DeJulio said.
The outages caused a great deal of frustration out at the Airport Industrial Park, where the director of economic development, Bob Riley, said industries had been forced to restart all of their production equipment several times in quick succession.
"We're all in the dark; it's been blinking on and off this morning," Riley said. "I haven't heard from too many of the plant managers, but power disruption is devastating ..."
It was at that point that the Daily Miner's telephone system, still reeling from the most recent outage, rebooted itself, cutting Riley off. The conversation resumed several minutes later, when Riley expressed his concern for the potential costs to the industrial park tenants, in both lost productivity and extra power costs.
"It's very difficult on the manufacturers," he said. "All of their machines go on at once, which means all of their demand factor goes up at once. Because of the fluctuation, the demand meters are going to be reset every time the power goes on and off, and that's one of the concerns so many of the industries out here is going to be."
Demand factor refers to the maximum amount of power consumed by a system compared to the maximum power that would be consumed if the entire load connected to the system were to be activated at the same time. According to DeJulio, however, UES Energy only resets a customer's demand factor after the power use has peaked for at least 15 minutes.
"It shouldn't affect them, but if they are, they should call us and we can evaluate it on a case-by-case basis," he said. "I'm going to talk to our billing folks, too, and let them know what's going on."