Gb Power To Restore Island's East By May

Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) has pledged to restore electricity distribution to the island's eastern end by May 2020 through rebuilding 35 miles of transmission lines.

"We're continuing the challenging work of clean-up of downed wires, poles and equipment as we prepare for the repair and replacement of hundreds of damaged poles, wires and accompanying infrastructure," said Dave McGregor, GB Power's president and chief operating officer, in a statement.

"In the coming weeks, we will engage skilled utility contract crews from the US to work with our own experienced crews to rebuild the 35 miles of transmission lines to the East End."

All crews will be working 12-hour days, six days per week until the East End is fully restored. GB Power said it will build back stronger wherever it can by using thicker poles, shortening the distance between poles, and applying a design that will help minimise broken poles during future storms. It promised that "all streets in east Grand Bahama communities" will be restored.

While its transmission and distribution network is restored, GB Power said will put in place temporary generation to service east Grand Bahama communities and be ready for customer reconnections once homes and businesses receive clearance from the Ministry of Works. By early February, temporary diesel-fuelled generation will be installed adjacent to Equinor's location.

These units will provide enough power to support Equinor as well as all communities in the East End on a temporary basis until the transmission and distribution infrastructure is repaired, at which time energy can be provided from Freeport.

"Working from the generation units," Mr McGregor continued, "we will repair west to High Rock and beyond, and east to all communities beyond Equinor to bring service back as quickly as possible."

GB Power's position appears to be much changed from that set out in a report produced for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which revealed the Emera-owned utility had "no intention" of investing $8m to rebuild the transmission line that previously ran from Freeport to East End because it will never get a return on its investment.

The report, by the Washington DC-based consultancy, ERM, said the area's population and electricity consumer numbers, which were relatively thin prior to Dorian, had been thinned out even more by the category five storm's devastation. It added that GB Power is waiting to determine how many persons return to the area - and where they settle - before deploying renewable energy microgrid solutions.

The report estimated that these microgrids would cost $3.75m and be 50 percent less than the price tag to rebuild the former transmission line.

"The 33kV (kilovolt) transmission line from Freeport to East Grand Bahama that runs for approximately 40km (kilometres) to a substation, which then steps to lower distribution voltage, is completely destroyed along with associated distribution lines," the report for the IDB confirmed.

"The privately-owned Grand Bahama Power Company has no intention to rebuild it given that the estimated cost is $8m. It is still uncertain how many consumers will eventually return and rebuild their houses or other assets, nor is there is information about future peak load in each town/settlement.

"The proposed solution to re-establish electricity supply is by deploying several micro grids in the area consisting of combinations of solar generation and battery storages."

The IDB said the "implementation cost of $3.75m will be funded" through a new energy sector loan facility it is making available to The Bahamas in Dorian's wake, part of which will be dedicated to the post-Dorian reconstruction. A further $200,000 "would be dedicated to feasibility studies for the micro grids".

Meanwhile, GB Power said all streets within communities from Freetown to McLean's Town will be reenergised by the temporary generation to serve homes and businesses deemed safe to restore. Crews will also repair and energise streetlights as they go.

"We are continuing to work with donors, stakeholders and government on a longer term renewable energy future for East Grand Bahama," Mr McGregor added. "We want to see communities to the east powered by resilient distributed renewable energy systems, backed up by a robust power supply from Freeport, resulting in a faster, cheaper restoration following future storms."

Nikita Mullings, GB Power's director of customer operations, added: "Once GBPC's temporary generation is in place, transmission wires, lines and transformers will become energised. It is critical that residents treat all lines as live, and do not touch or move wires or any electrical infrastructure.

"It's also important to drive with caution around our crews as they are working. Please proceed slowly and obey markers and traffic signals put in place by our team. We ask that the public not approach our work zones or crews themselves, as the safety and security of our crews is paramount, and any stoppage in work will slow the restoration."


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