By YOURI KEMP
Grand Bahama Power Company’s (GBPC) chief executive said the restoration of customer supply would begin yesterday evening after 80 percent of its Freeport grid infrastructure survived Hurricane Dorian.
Dave McGregor, the utility’s chief executive, confirmed to Tribune Business that much of its transmission and distribution network within the city - including wires, poles and substations - had withstood the monster storm.
He revealed that one of GB Power’s two generation plants, the West Sunrise facility, had been tested by its damage assessment team over the weekend and was now ready to supply electricity despite being completely flooded during Dorian.
“Nobody’s electricity has been restored, but by later this evening some would be restored,” Mr McGregor added. “Today our teams are focusing on energising areas that have not been affected by the flooding.”
GB Power’s Facebook page yesterday afternoon said power had been restored to the areas of the Pelican Bay Hotel; the Grand Lucayan Hotel; Seahorse Plaza; portions of Kings Road; Coral Beach; the Harbour House Towers; portions of Seahorse Village; and portions of Windsor Park.
GB Power has yet to determine the cost of the damages inflicted by Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the northern Bahamas - especially east Grand Bahama and Abaco - less than three years after Hurricane Matthew forced it into a $28m network rebuild.
The resiliency of Freeport’s transmission and distribution system during Dorian indicates that lessons were learned from Matthew, and that GB Power’s network was better prepared to face catastrophic damage this time around.
GB Power’s distribution grid fared better than the utility’s 50-strong vehicle fleet, with Mr McGregor revealing most will have to be written off after being immersed in Dorian’s flooding and storm surge.
He added that the effects of salt water on GB Power’s system, especially the insulators and wires, will create challenges in restoring power to 100 percent of Grand Bahama because salt conducts electricity. As a result, the safety of technical team members and linemen will be a primary concern.
Mr McGregor said virtually all GB Power’s 200-plus employees are back working to restore energy supplies despite some losing their homes and all possessions to Dorian.
The utility’s efforts are being supported by their 100 percent Canadian owner, Emera, and Emera’s Florida subsidiary, Tampa Electric (TECO). Some 20 technicians arrived in Freeport on Sunday night, inclusive of linemen, mechanics and security personnel, together with 20 vehicles. A further 60 support and recovery staff are due to arrive tomorrow.
Mr McGregor added that GB Power was working with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) to deal with electrical inspections of buildings to ensure power can be restored. “The building services department have been meeting two to three times a day with GB Power,” he said, adding that the primary criteria for power restoration is that homes must have “no present flooding concerns and no roof damage”.
The GB Power chief also warned consumers against having diesel generators attached to the home metering system that ties directly into GB Power’s distribution grid. He urged that these be attached to certain appliances only to prevent a “back-powering of the transmission and distribution system”.
This would result in consumers sending electricity back into the GB Power system and creating electrified “live wires”, which would then pose an electrocution risk to linemen working on power distribution and transmission equipment.