Power outage caused by automation failure

The four-hour power outage on Sunday was triggered by a systems failure, when Electrical Power Corporation’s solar and hydro systems could not meet the demand when a diesel generator went off.

The E.P.C. Chief Executive Officer, Tologata Tile Tuimalealiifano, told the Samoa Observer yesterday that the country is moving towards renewable energy, which has seen the installation of solar and hydro systems to compliment and support a diesel generation system.

But he said the adjustments experienced problems which resulted in Sunday’s power outage, as the grid controller was not able to ensure automatic coordination between the solar, hydro and diesel systems.

“So what happened is because solar and hydro is new, these are the things we implemented towards our target to 100 per cent renewable. We are learning the new adjustments to the systems but the main objective to maximize renewable energy.

On Sunday 2:30 pm that was when the energy from the sun was maximised so the problem was we had too much electricity coming from solar plants, and the grid controller was trying to reduce the electricity that we were generating from diesel, in order to save diesel fuel. But in doing so somehow the diesel engine went off from this automatic coordination. 

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The root force that happened on Sunday so when the diesel engine was down, the solar and hydro that were trying to supply and meet the demand, could not control the entire system. The system was struggling till it went off completely,” he said.

Tologata said the blackout on Sunday was an “emergency” and not a scheduled power outage, otherwise the E.P.C. would advised the public.

“Another thing that was mentioned in the paper was not informing the consumers. This was an emergency, not a planned power outage like we normally advise the public about. But we tried our very best.”

The E.P.C. is currently making adjustments to the automated power system to ensure a similar power outage does not reoccur, he added and indicated that they were working with the American energy company Tesla, which installed two Tesla Powerpack sites in Samoa, which according to the company are designed to capture renewable energy and offer support and stability to the E.P.C.

“We are working with Tesla from the lesson learnt on Sunday how we can improve the automatic system to address the issue so this does not happen again.”

While Samoa can be credited for having one of the region’s largest solar power generation systems, Tologata said having an advanced renewable power generation system meant the E.P.C. would have difficulties seeking assistance in this area.

“Everything we do is a learning process as we go. The current situation It’s about 50-60 per cent that is generated from renewable, proportionate to the diesel generator,” he added.

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