By Ricardo Wells
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN assessment is underway at Bahamas Power & Lights’ Bimini power station after a fire ripped through the facility late Monday evening, plunging the entire island into darkness for the night.
As of 7pm yesterday, reports from BPL suggested that power was restored across the entire island, with the only exception being Bimini Bay where technicians were said to be still at work on restoring power “piece, piece.”
BPL yesterday confirmed that both CEO Whitney Heastie and acting COO Ian Pratt led a team to the island with a view to assess the site.
Preliminary inspections at Station B in Bimini suggest that the two primary generating units on the island of Bimini, each rated at 4.4 MW, have been irreparably damaged. In addition to the engines and generators themselves, auxiliary equipment such as pumps, filters and electrical switchgear have also been destroyed by the blaze. These units represented the base load machines on the island. The cause of the fire itself has not been ascertained. This will be the subject of an internal BPL investigation as well as reviewed by the relevant agencies and local and international insurance adjusters.
At present in Bimini BPL has approximately 8.5 MW of generation available. Assesments are being made to determine the short and long term plans and steps necessary to ensure the reliability of the supply.
Meanwhile, Works Minister Desmond Bannister, speaking at the New Providence Container Port yesterday to mark BPL’s official receipt of seven new Wartsilia tri-fuel generators, issued an apology to Bimini residents for the inconvenience caused by the outage. “Today ought to have been a day of uncompromised celebration,” he said. “We are doing something historic that will be celebrated in The Bahamas for many decades. However, last night’s fire in Bimini has put somewhat of a damper on events this morning, and accordingly I have a responsibility to address that first.
“I apologise to the people of Bimini for the inconveniences suffered during the night. That is our responsibility, and will assume responsibility for it. The fire will be investigated thoroughly and independently.
“While two generators were damaged, we still have five operational generators in Bimini. Power has been restored fully to Bailey Town this morning. We expect power to be restored to Alice Town by 1pm today,” he said yesterday. “I wish to commend BPL’s hard working staff, who have worked through the night to make this possible.”
He added: “For your information, BPL had four to five staff members working the plant in Bimini who each have at least 30 years experience, each of them and we are forever grateful to them.”
BPL confirmed a fire at the facility shortly after 9.30pm Monday.
In the short statement, BPL said the fire department on the island was on site, and attempting to extinguish the blaze.
Cell phone videos of the huge blaze circulated on social media last night, showing large flames and plumes of thick smoke emanating from the building as bystanders looked on in the dark.
One resident lamented that the fire meant islanders would have to rely on generators for power supply.
However, residents interviewed by The Tribune yesterday applauded BPL for its quick action and efforts to restore power.
Sherry Roberts, a worker at N&N Market Centre, said: “I live in Alice Town. The electricity there was off all night. When I came to work 7.30 this morning the electricity on the hill at Bailey Town was on. Our electricity went on downtown at shortly after 9 or 10am, someone told me. We appreciate and are grateful that it came on so fast because most of us thought that we weren’t going to have electricity for the next six months or so. I thought that all the engines were damaged but all weren’t in the same building. I really was surprised and happy it came on.”
Ms Roberts said BPL officials on the island did suggest that load shedding could be implemented moving forward.
Outside Cabinet yesterday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar raised concerns with what the problem could mean for Bimini’s tourism product.
He said while he was certain many of the major hotels on Bimini could sustain themselves through outages, his concern was with smaller luxury properties and second home owners.
“I was there two weekends ago and there was a power failure and the generators kicked in, but Bimini is also a large vacation home rental market and that is where it’s going to have the most devastating affect,” he said. “When I was there and I was staying in the home of a friend of mine and the power went out there was no power, so, yes, this is very concerning and I am sure that BPL is working as hard as they can to restore the power, but we all know it has been a problem down there for a while and BPL is facing some enormous challenges with that.”
Up to press time yesterday, there was no suggestion from BPL on whether or not temporary generation units would be transported to the island to offset the lost generation due to the fire.