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Monday’s WAPA Outage Tied to Hurricane-Damaged Substation

WAPA personnel make repairs to an equipment cubicle at the Donald Francois electrical substation in Long Bay, St. Thomas. (Photo by V.I. Water and Power Authority)
WAPA personnel make repairs to an equipment cubicle at the Donald Francois electrical substation in Long Bay, St. Thomas. (Photo by V.I. Water and Power Authority)

An electrical service interruption that spanned across several distribution feeders in the St. Thomas/St. John District Monday morning resulted from equipment failure at a hurricane-damaged electrical substation and later, compromised primary service lines, the V.I. Water and Power Authority reported.

The outage began shortly before 6 a.m. on Monday and all customers were restored at 2:30 p.m., the utility said in a news release.

“The Donald Francois electrical substation in Long Bay experienced equipment failure this morning which required grid reconfiguration to assign all ‘B’ feeders usually serviced by the substation to other substation feeders, facilitate service restoration and equipment repair,” said Interim Executive Director and CEO Noel Hodge in the release sent Monday evening.

At mid-morning on Monday, due to the increased load on Feeders 7A and 8A, which were by then carrying the electrical demand of Feeders 6B, 7B, 8B, and 9B, primary service lines on 7A and 8A became compromised, which tripped the feeders and resulted in a service interruption, WAPA said.

Hodge explained that in the Subbase area, Line Department crews made repairs to more than a half dozen primary lines which make up feeders 7A and 8A before restoring service to customers on the six feeders.

“At about the same time, the loss of the substation led to low voltage issues on Feeder 10B which required that feeder to be taken offline, adversely affecting service to customers from Long Bay to Bovoni along the south side of the island. Once repairs at the Francois substation were completed, service was restored to all customers. St. John Feeder 9E also experienced a service interruption when the substation initially failed, it was restored once the grid was adjusted to accommodate electrical demand,” said Hodge.

Hodge apologized for the inconvenience of Monday’s outage but expressed optimism that the equipment failures of the substation will soon end as the facility, damaged by Hurricane Irma four years ago, has been approved for major reconstruction and repair and FEMA funding is already approved for the enhancement project.

“The substation will undergo repair and rehabilitation as soon as another recently reconstructed substation on St. Thomas’ east end is brought online. This is because we cannot take both substations offline at the same time. East end was first to be reconstructed because of the severity of its damage after the storms. We anticipate that work on the Francois facility will commence shortly after the commissioning of the east end substation which is now slated for January 2022,” Hodge said.

Engineering specification work has been completed and Requests for Proposal have been sent out to secure a vendor to complete the Francois substation project. WAPA anticipates these upgrades will bring much needed stability to the electric grid. “The functionality of electrical substations is pivotal to maintaining a properly configured transmission and distribution network for our customers,” Hodge added.

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