Rolling blackouts follow cable shutdown

BEDEQUE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND - A broken insulator at the Bedeque substation shut down one of the two cables that carries electricity to PEI from the mainland, leaving thousands without electricity.

The problem started at 6 p.m. and took about 3.5 hours for Maritime Electric to repair. At one point 23,000 households were without electricity.

While Maritime Electric has oil-fired generators on the Island, it is heavily reliant on the far less expensive power it can import via two cables under the Northumberland Strait. Those cables are close to capacity, and when one goes down, the electricity grid goes into a partial shutdown to protect the remaining cable.

"One of the things that can damage that type of equipment is overloading it," said Maritime Electric vice-president of corporate planning and energy supply John Gaudet.

"We want to make sure that we take care of them the best we can."

Maritime Electric was able to provide 30 MW of power from the Eastern Kings Wind Farm, saving it from firing up more generators.

"It just was good fortune that the wind was blowing," said Gaudet.

"It was a classic example of wind replacing oil."

The cables to the mainland were installed in 1977. At the time, either one could supply the entire province's needs, but that is no longer the case.

The province has been lobbying the federal government for funding for a new cable to the mainland, in part to export wind power produced on the Island.

Maritime Electric is continuing to investigate why the insulator at the Bedeque substation failed.


in Year