FICELCO says cut power line, SUWECO gensets caused brownouts
posted 12-May-2019  ·  
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A cut primary line in Bocon, Caramoran, a defective genset at the Solong diesel power plant of the Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) and adjustments being made to the alarm and protection system of SUWECO’s new gensets triggered the spate of brownouts since April 27, 2019, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) said last week.

General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe told the Tribune that FICELCO repair crews immediately reconnected the cut power line and conducted line clearing operations along its distribution lines to ensure that no part of trees bordering it could cause power interruptions.

He added that the Unit No. 3 of Solong DPP with a capacity of 780 kilowatts suffered a breakdown while three new gensets delivered by SUWECO to its Marinawa power plant needed fine-tuning to adjust to the current settings of the operating gensets.

It may be recalled that soon after the cooperative began pursuing the procurement of additional power through a Competitive Selection Process (CSP), SUWECO hasted the delivery and installation of six 1.1-megawatt diesel gensets under the 2nd Amendment of its Electricity Supply Agreement with FICELCO.

It installed two units of 1-MW diesel gensets as well as two more of 900-kilowatt capacity at the Marinawa DPP at the FICELCO’s Marinawa compound, along with two 900-kW units at its power plant inside the Viga plant of the National Power Corporation.

Only a maximum of three out of the four installed units are being operated, with the cost of generation the same as NPC’s Subsidized Approved Generation Rate (SAGR) pending the approval of the 2nd Amendment by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Two units at the Viga DPP are currently undergoing testing and commissioning, with technical personnel from the co-op and NPC on hand to ensure the gensets are running and the settings are properly calibrated before recommending the gensets’ commercial operation.

GM Zafe said the newly-installed gensets have to be synchronized with the existing gensets in order to prevent sudden tripping or shutdowns.

He bared that he asked SUWECO technicians to set a lower undervoltage trip rating from the current 90% to just 80% to allow the gensets to adjust to unbalanced loading in the grid.

Zafe said that the higher setting caused the genset to trip, with the effect cascading to the other operating gensets and resulting in the island-wide brownouts.

The new 1.1-Mw genset is usually utilized in hotels, which have balanced power loads, and will have to be reset for use in the island grid where half of the power is concentrated in the capital town of Virac.

Meanwhile, FICELCO and its power suppliers held a coordination meeting last May 2 to discuss preparations to be implemented in the run-up to the national and local elections on May 13, 2019.

To ensure reliable and efficient power supply during the voting and counting, GM Zafe suggested that the 3.6-mW Marinawa diesel power plant operated by NPC undergo two days of general reconditioning or preventive maintenance.

He also advised that the three hydroelectric power plants conserve water for two days prior to the elections, with its power on idling mode along with all other power plants and ready to go on line at a moment’s notice.

FICELCO, on the other hand, will continue to implement massive right-of-way clearing and maintenance of the distribution line.

In case of line trouble at Feeder 3, islanding operation will be implemented in northern Catanduanes for the towns of Viga, Panganiban, Bagamanoc, Pandan and Caramoran, which will be supplied by the Viga power plants, GM Zafe added.

Also present during the meeting at FICELCO headquarters were SUWECO senior vice president for operations Buenaventura Co, SUWECO business unit head Floro Barrameda, NPC Balongbong hydro power plant head Engr. Sammy Barba, NPC Viga DPP head Engr. Angelie Luz Barba, and NPC plant superintendent Engr. Ariel Beo.

Based on the latest Daily Power Supply-Demand Outlook, the Catanduanes grid has a total of 16.34 megawatts available for dispatch compared to the system’s peak load of 11.50 mW, for a reserve of 5.34 mW.

The three hydropower plants are still operating but with a low water level limiting its capacity. Both Solong and Balongbong HPP can only deliver 300 kilowatts each while Hitoma HPP has 250 kW.

The bulk of the load is being shouldered by SUWECO’s diesel gensets: Solong DPP with 5.19 mW, Marinawa DPP with 3.8 mW, and Viga DPP with 1.8 mW, for a total of 10.79 mW or 66 percent of the total grid capacity.

NPC, on the other hand, has a total of 5.2 mW in diesel power available for dispatch, with the 3.6-mW baseload diesel power plant accounting for only 2.2 mW.

For now, there is no power deficit in the grid but the unscheduled brownouts would persist until the new gensets’ protection system is completely reset, the cooperative reiterated.

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