(ABOVE) Hawaii Electric Light crews working in Ahualoa, photo courtesy HELCO
- Water service was restored to Waimea customers located in the Pu’unani Subdivision in the early afternoon Sunday. However, customers along Mana Road do not have water service due to ongoing power issues.
- A water restriction advisory is now in effect for Waiohinu area customers. Due to a main break on South Point Road and reduced source water output, customers in Waiohinu mauka, Discovery Harbor mauka, and along South Point Road have no water service, according to the Department of Water Supply. An emergency water spigot is available at Waiohinu Park for customers while main repairs are completed.
- The Hawaii Electric Light Company says about 1,100 customers are currently without power. Service was restored to about 44,000 customers by 7:00 a.m. Sunday.
- HELCO says winds damaged three of four cross-island lines and one of two lines serving Puna Geothermal Venture, jeopardizing the power transmission system.
Hawai‘i Electric Light crews continue to make progress on restoring electric service to customers affected by recent severe weather conditions. On Sunday, repairs were completed in Aloha Estates (Mountain View), Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, Hawi, Kamuela, Kona (Kaloko, Captain Cook, Keauhou, Hōlualoa), Leilani Estates, Lorenzo Road (Ka‘u), and Wai‘ōhinu. Crews continue to work in Āhualoa, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Honoka‘a, Kalōpā, Ka‘u, Nānāwale, Paauilo, Volcano, North Glenwood, and Upper Puna. About 1,100 customers are currently without power.
The company’s first priority was to safely restore the backbone of its cross-island transmission lines to stabilize the power grid and then focus on restoring pocket outages around the island. All major transmission lines were back in service early Sunday morning. The most difficult challenge was replacing a bent steel pole in the Waimea district. While Waimea crews were replacing the pole, Kona and Hilo crews were repairing equipment and restoring service around the island. Service was restored to about 44,000 customers by 7:00 a.m. Sunday.
Hawai‘i Electric Light will continue its round-the-clock repair operations until all customers are restored. At this time, it is estimated that customers in the hardest hit areas will have service restored by midnight Tuesday.
“We know what a hardship it is for our customers to be out of power,” said Hawai‘i Electric Light spokesperson Rhea Lee. “We sincerely apologize and want to assure them that we are doing everything we can to safely restore service as quickly as possible.”
Similar to Iselle, the transmission system was in a precarious situation, as winds damaged three of four cross-island lines and one of two lines serving Puna Geothermal Venture. Damage included fallen trees and branches on lines, downed lines, and a bent steel pole caused by a fallen ironwood tree. Consequently, the company was unable to accept power from two large generation sources, Hamakua Energy Partners and Hawi Renewable Development Wind Farm, until the transmission lines were back in service. Puna Geothermal Venture does not generate power for the grid unless both transmission lines serving them are in operation.
Some outages occurred as a means to protect the electric grid. Hawai‘i Electric Light’s system protection is designed to quickly respond to system disturbances to keep the grid functional. One of these responses is “load-shedding” blocks of customers when the demand for power is higher than the supply.
The system frequency can become unbalanced when demand exceeds supply and cause circuits to trip without warning and create a domino effect leading to an island-wide blackout. To prevent this situation, blocks of customers are automatically disconnected from the system for a short time while other generation is started to cover the demand. These kinds of outages are usually short, from a few seconds to a few minutes. On Friday, some customers experienced up to three brief load-shedding events.
Another system protection measure Hawai‘i Electric Light has incorporated into its grid are intelligent relay protective devices that monitor circuit conditions and detects anomalies. These relays automatically disconnect power to the impacted lines. This situation occurred many times during the storm around the island. An example of this situation occurred on Friday when a large ironwood tree fell on transmission lines along the highway in Kamuela and bent a steel pole, shattered five spans of cross-arms, and downed power lines (see photo below).
Many Hawai‘i Electric Light employees have been working through the weekend to restore service and assist customers. As line crews work in the field, other employees answer phones, receive customer outage information, coordinate repair work, assess damage, manage generation supply, and provide other support. One of the critical support functions is field assessment of damage. Employees were in the field beginning Saturday morning to assess the damage and design the necessary repairs. These employees traveled subdivision-to-subdivision and house-to-house, as necessary. The assessment is a critical element to speed repairs. The data collected allows designs to be completed quickly and material and supplies to be available and ready for the crews.
A top priority for Hawai‘i Electric Light is safety for the community and employees. Safety precautions have been shared with local media and included in social media postings
The community is encouraged to be safe and treat downed power lines as energized and dangerous. Do not handle or move any fallen or damaged utility equipment. If someone is injured by a downed power line, do not approach them. Call 9-1-1 for assistance.
Hawai‘i Electric Light asks customers who have not yet reported their power outage to call its trouble line at 969-6666. Due to the high call volume, customers may experience a longer wait time before speaking with a representative. The company sincerely apologizes for this inconvenience and thanks customers for their patience and understanding.Hawaii Electric Light Company on Jan. 4 at 5:45 p.m. HST