Stable power supply forecast by July 12
posted 8-Jul-2018  ·  
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Asking its 50,000 member-consumers for patience as it tries to address recurrent brownouts, the management of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) said last week that the power supply situation in the island province would vastly improve by July 12 when the National Power Corporation’s 3.6-megawatt diesel genset begins operation.

This was disclosed to the Tribune last June 23, 2018 by General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe, who stated that his primary goal when he took over the post is to reduce the recurrent brownouts by the end of the month.

The FICELCO Board of Directors headed by its president, Director Alexander Ang Hung, has already given him the green light to proceed with the upgrading of the power lines between Balongbong mini-hydroelectric power plant and the Marinawa substation.

While the line upgrading would vastly reduce unscheduled power outages once it is completed, the situation in the Catanduanes would stabilize only once Napocor runs the 3.6-MW diesel genset at Marinawa on July 12 as promised by Atty. Rogel Teves, NPC vice president for Power Engineering Services.

GM Zafe clarified that the June 16 rehab work on the Balongbong-Marinawa tie line replaced only the undersized lines of two spans at both ends. The majority of the power lines along the five-kilometer stretch will be covered by the new rehab work which will cost the cooperative about P2.6 million.

He recalled that he was then operations and maintenance manager for FICELCO about 15 to 20 years ago when the same tie line was designed to carry the load of the 1.8-megawatt Balongbong hydro.

Sometime in 2010, the FICELCO board and management allowed the Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) to connect its Solong mini-hydroelectric power plant to the Balongbong tie line, instead of letting the private company build its own dedicated line from Solong to the Marinawa substation.

This brought the total actual load of the tie line to over 3-MW, far above its 2-MW capacity. The subsequent operation of SUWECO’s Solong diesel power plant added another 5-MW to the already overloaded and undersized tie line, causing it to frequently overheat and trip the current protection system, GM Zafe explained.

The defect also resulted in widespread undervoltage in the current supplied to its customers’ homes and establishments, with voltage going down to as low as 180 volts in some towns and resulting in the breakdown of home appliances. It also affected the synchronization of the different power plants supplying the grid, causing cascading brownouts.

It is claimed that the replacement of the undersized tie line wires by the maximum size available in the market will raise its capacity to about 4.5 megawatts, still less than the ideal number.

Assuming SUWECO and FICELCO jointly files with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) its application for approval of the installation of an additional 6.6-megawatts of diesel gensets under the 2nd Amendment, the new gensets can no longer be installed at Solong to avoid overloading the same tie line.

A source told the Tribune that the FICELCO board and SUWECO officials are still in negotiations over the latter’s proposal to base the new gensets at the old, idle power plant of the cooperative inside its Marinawa headquarters.

In the same interview, GM Zafe told the Tribune that his long-range plan is to work on power supply affordability or lowering the cost of electricity, after addressing the efficiency and quality issues with regards to frequent brownouts and undervoltage current, respectively.

He expressed optimism that once the NPC’s substation at Codon is completed to link with the existing 69-KV transmission line from Virac, the town of San Andres will get its power directly from the substation, thereby improving power supply in the entire grid.

FICELCO sources say that Engr. Orlando Andres, the project supervisor sent by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to oversee the operation of the cooperative in the absence of a GM, has already left. His companion, Engr. Elino Desuyo, is still at Marinawa helping the coop’s technical personnel in improving the distribution system and reviewing the power supply contracts.

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