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Power outages.
Old 12-27-2008, 05:18 PM   #1
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Power outages.

Almost all of Oahu lost power last night and took 16 hours to get power restored to 70% of the island (Mine was restored after "only" 12 hours.)
The only reason anybody would know about this is because Barack Obama is here and the press reported it. The city, secret service, and electric company all rushed generators to him. I guess there are some real perks to the job

Evidently a lightning stike took out a transformer which resulted in the whole system overloading. Now I am bitching too much, cause if you have to lose power in Dec. this one of the most beign places to lose power. Still I am more than a little annoyed that something as trivial as lightning storm caused a 16 hour power outage. A couple of years ago the Big Island (200 miles away) had a moderate earthquake with knocked out power and also took 12-16 hours to restore power.

I am wonder how long it takes the power company in your hour to get the electricty back on after the normal winter or summer storm. Now obviously Hawaii isn't on the the national grid, so this isn't an completely fair comparision. On ther other hand we aren't talking about hurricane winds, or a few feet of snow either. $.30 KWH electricity is bad enough but the crappy service is enough for me to start looking at ways to get off the grid.
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Old 12-27-2008, 05:34 PM   #2
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It took Met-Ed two and a half hours on Wednesday after the ice storm.

A few years ago it took several days after a more severe ice event.
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Old 12-27-2008, 05:45 PM   #3
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It took AEP (American Electric Power) up to about THREE weeks to get it restored to everyone in this area after a Wind Storm during this past Summer. Two or Three days throw out the refrigerator stuff, couple of more days the freezer stuff goes. That is if you do not have a generator or eat a lot quickly.
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:00 PM   #4
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Here...fortunately...it normally takes Ameren-IP about an hour, maybe two, to get power restored....most times less than that.

My brother out in MA, had his power off for about a day & a half about 2 weeks ago, due to a winter storm. He said (as of Christmas day) that a couple of his friends a few miles away were still without electricity from that storm outage. He keeps talking about getting a generator to have "just in case", but always finds something else to spend his money on instead.

For those "just in case" situations, I have a bright, shiny, new generator sitting in the garage....along with enough fuel to run it for a long time....I can go 16 days by running it for 1/2 hour, then shutting it down for 2 hours....rinse...repeat. If I need more gas, I can always siphon some outta one of the cars, since we always keep the tanks near full. I like the idea of the generator, 'cause I like the house warm in the winter (furnace), and cool in the summer (A/C).
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:10 PM   #5
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This year in Baton Rouge we had a 3 hr outage for a transformer failure in good weather (in our neighborhood). Then we were without power for 9 days when Gustav blew through.

DS in Houston lost power for 12 days when Ike huffed and puffed and blew the lines down.
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:33 PM   #6
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Yeah, Clif, that must be what they mean by "power." SO lives about a block and a half away from me and gets lots of outages, in fact there was one the other day that lasted a few hours; I heard about it on the news but my power never went out. We must be on different grids; I have reason to suspect that da Mayor lives in my grid.
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Old 12-27-2008, 08:51 PM   #7
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We got power back between 1-3 weeks after Katrina. (EDITED TO ADD: That was in my suburb. Some other parts of New Orleans, such as parts of New Orleans East, didn't get power back for over a year.)

We got intermittent power back the day after Gustav, but then it didn't hit us as directly as it hit Alan in Baton Rouge. I stayed away anyway until we got water/sewer back three days later, and by that time the power was steady and reliable.

Normally, we do not have trouble with power outages here after more moderate storms that do not require evacuation. For example, Hurricane Cindy did not cause any power loss at all at my home, though that was sheer luck since it knocked down quite a few trees on my block. Normal extratropical storms do not often cause any power outages.

Every few years we might have the power out for an hour or two just in the immediate area during good weather, which I suppose is due to some problem locally.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:19 PM   #8
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Even though it snows up to my eyeballs here, heavy ice is a rare thing. It is one of the few advantages of living in the lake effect snow zone SE of Lake Ontario.
My home town near NYC was always subject to ice storms. I have strong childhood memroies of constant power outtages due to weather and many many brownouts due to the demand from NYC.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by clifp View Post
Evidently a lightning stike took out a transformer which resulted in the whole system overloading.
I am wonder how long it takes the power company in your hour to get the electricty back on after the normal winter or summer storm.
I think part of the problem is that the Oahu grid is relatively small. It doesn't take much to destablize it, and apparently a lightning strike caused the Kahe plant to drop four of its high-voltage transmission lines. But I can't wait to see if HECO comes up with a better excuse.

Once the voltage & frequency started bouncing around, apparently HECO's controllers shed loads to avoid damaging the generators or the distribution transformers in their parking lots. "Protect the plant", not so much the customers.

Then, from what I've read about the earthquake, the fun begins. HECO apparently sends out crews to physically inspect each neighborhod's main transformers before they attempt to reenergize them. (Maybe that's just for earthquakes & lightning.) I would've thought you'd shut a breaker in the main control room and keep going as long as nothing bad happened, but apparently that's not worth 30 cents/KWHr. One KSSK caller claimed he saw a lightning strike on a Wahiawa transformer with sparks & flames, so that probably caused some concern. And I thought it was really quite charitable of the governor to volunteer a helicopter to overfly the ridges to check the high-voltage lines. In the dark. During the storm. In the lightning/thunder. With ridge updrafts that make the Pali Overlook seem like gentle trades. Almost as nice as the mayor taking time to make sure that Obama had an extra generator for his three rental houses.

We had just started sparring when the lights flickered. Our taekwondo instructor actually had to announce "Just so everyone is clear on the concept, if the lights go out then stop sparring!" But five minutes later it was good that he spoke up. A couple minutes later one match started up in the warm glow of the spectator's cell phones. (There's a tournament in a month.) We decided it was time to get on the roads before everyone else had the same "bright" idea.

With all the enthusiasm of a driver who's been licensed for ~50 days, my daughter said she was really looking forward to the drive home. I said that she'd certainly get some real driving experience and that street lights & traffic signals would possibly be dead. (Turned out they were ALL off.) She rolled her eyes and said "I know how to handle a four-way stop, Daaad" but by the time we got home I think she was beginning to regret her decision to enter the "four-way chicken derby". Good practice for Mainland cities.

When the electrical grid shut down, was it just my neighborhood or did every fireworks-buyin' schmuck on the island decide to test their inventory?

We only had to wait 10 hours for power to come back on, and our fridge hardly even warmed up. But I watched Aiea Heights & Ewa Beach get their power back before us!
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Old 12-28-2008, 02:13 AM   #10
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It was about 16 hours here windward. I understand it takes time to bring the power up - balance the load or risk losing the generators. But, good grief! 16 hours?

Yes, Nords, the Schmucks were out in force in our hood. Only good thing is, they may be low on 'ammo' for New Years. Last year, NYs was like something out of a WWII, John Wayne movie. Smoke so thick it was almost choking people.

But I digress. Thinking about a generator or at least an inverter to run off the car for the inevitable next time.

Oh, and another thing. Lightning?? That wasn't lightning! Florida and Illinois. Now they have lightning! I'm not sure what those few flashes and rumbles were, but I can tell you from experience, it can't have been 'real' lightning. If that was enough to crash an entire island for nearly 24 hours, we are in serious trouble...

End of rant - for now.
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Old 12-28-2008, 08:31 AM   #11
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One thing that surprised me when I was in Hawaii was how many people had solar panels on their roofs.... Some places looked like it was a requirement..

So, if you have solar, do you have batteries? I don't think it would be that much extra cost.... but I could be wrong...
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Old 12-28-2008, 10:38 AM   #12
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One thing that surprised me when I was in Hawaii was how many people had solar panels on their roofs.... Some places looked like it was a requirement..

So, if you have solar, do you have batteries? I don't think it would be that much extra cost.... but I could be wrong...
Batteries are a huge extra cost (depending on how much storage time you want of course). Space and maintenance issues.

The most cost effective (and environmental) approach for solar is to use the grid as your storage system. If you want some batteries for emergency back-up, that can be done either with or w/o solar. With solar, you already have the inverter, but inverters for emergency use (2500 watts) go for a few hundred dollars.

Related thread over here:

Prius Backup Generator

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Old 12-28-2008, 10:45 AM   #13
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One thing that surprised me when I was in Hawaii was how many people had solar panels on their roofs.... Some places looked like it was a requirement..
If you were seeing that many roofs of solar panels in a residential neighborhood then you were probably seeing solar water heater panels-- black, about 4'x8', usually two to a roof's south slope but often more. The Navy's base housing by the Honolulu airport was built with all solar water, and these days I think every military base housing development has solar water heating. (IIRC the only other Oahu business whose photovoltaic panels are on proud display is a motorcycle dealer on Nimitz Highway by the airport.) Schofield Barracks has one base-housing neighborhood that's putting both PV and solar water on the roofs as the "nation's largest solar neighborhood". Hawaii has about 35% per capita solar water overall, but this year the legislature mandated that all new homes will be built with solar-water systems. So it'll be even more common.

Some of the solar water systems use a small (12" square) PV panel to drive a DC water pump. Plenty hot water, no need AC. At least as long as the sun is shining-- by the third cloudy day the tank might be down to 90-100 degrees. And a lot of homes have photovoltaic-powered attic exhaust fans. Those make a huge difference in cooling our home.

Oahu PV may have improved over the last couple months, but last week I was talking to the guy who used to process HECO's net-metering contracts. There are still fewer than 250 Oahu homeowners with grid-tied systems and residential PV installers aren't getting many calls. But businesses are going PV in a big way.

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So, if you have solar, do you have batteries? I don't think it would be that much extra cost.... but I could be wrong...
Only if you want to. Our grid-tied inverter won't even power up after sunrise if HECO isn't providing a grid bus voltage. We do photovoltaic for the money, not the reliability. When the power goes out, I can't think of any electrical appliance that we couldn't do without for a few days-- my daughter's withdrawal symptoms notwithstanding.

I don't know battery prices these days, but I think they're a hassle. Lead-acid batteries offer the cheapest power density and deepest cycle but they need constant monitoring/maintenance and they can wear out after a few years. Even just holding a minimal charge requires some current flow for good maintenance. NiMH and LiIon are coming along but I think they're very expensive and they're not quite ready for prime time.

The biggest problem with batteries is maintaining the house voltage. Starting a fridge or a vacuum cleaner, let alone an air conditioner, on a battery bank will easily hammer the house's voltage from 120v down below 90v before it recovers. Those transients are murder on any electronics and even some motors. Grid-tie means that we're using HECO's bus voltage and it's as steady as ever, no matter what we start up.
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:54 AM   #14
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We lost power from the night of the 11th thru noon on the 15th due to the big ice storm up here in New England. Luckily we had a couple of warm days, so no damage to my house. Others had no power for 2+ weeks and burst pipes, etc.

I'm in the market for a generator, once they get back in stock...
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Old 12-29-2008, 01:30 PM   #15
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I'm in the market for a generator, once they get back in stock...
Even though I have a brand new portable generator, I still am pondering getting a permanently mounted, natural gas powered one installed, along with an auto-transfer switch. I'd have a bit more peace of mind if I was gone on a trip, and the power went out here at home....wouldn't have to worry about whether the neighbor hooks up and runs our generator for us when we're gone.
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Old 12-29-2008, 01:41 PM   #16
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Wow the responses are all over the map.
I was wondering about how practical it would be to hook up a battery to a solar cell and it doesn't sound like a smart idea. I guess in the future I'll look at putting in a PV and then even if Hawaii Electric is particularly slow I'd have power during the day. It would at least keep the food in the freezer from spoiling.
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Old 12-29-2008, 02:00 PM   #17
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I'd love one of those automatic ones. A buddy of mine is getting a permanently installed one. It even starts itself every month for a self test.

I may be able to score his gently used old one ;-)

I'd love one of those permanent ones, just can't justify the funds. That and I can't come up with them...
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Old 12-29-2008, 02:12 PM   #18
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You guys are such wimps. Our power goes out a few times each winter "due to trees falling on power lines" and is often out for days. 14 days a few years ago.

I have an inverter that I plug in to one of the cars, which lets us run the fan in the woodstove and fluorescent lights for reading.

We have the PG&E power status line on speed dial, and a "power outage coming" checklist:

Power Outage Coming??

q Do Laundry
q Make Ice Blocks
q Organize Freezer (put stuff you'll need in cooler)
q Tank up Cars
q Assemble Flashlights
q Check Batteries
q Check Lamp Oil
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Old 12-29-2008, 06:49 PM   #19
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You guys are such wimps......
It's not that I'm a wimp....heck, I have my Carhart Arctic-Wear to keep me warm & comfy. It's only that we have hot water heat, and if the power's out for an extended period....and if we didn't have a generator (which we do), we'd not only risk being up sh*t creek with out a paddle, but if the heating system pipes froze and split, we'd also be supplying sh*t creek with lots of water to keep it flowing!
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Old 12-29-2008, 07:02 PM   #20
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It's not that I'm a wimp....heck, I have my Carhart Arctic-Wear to keep me warm & comfy. It's only that we have hot water heat, and if the power's out for an extended period....and if we didn't have a generator (which we do), we'd not only risk being up sh*t creek with out a paddle, but if the heating system pipes froze and split, we'd also be supplying sh*t creek with lots of water to keep it flowing!
Same hot water closed loop heating system here too, same need for a generator if power goes out. A small section of the heat pipes on the north wall will partially freeze if the outside temps are way below zero and I don't keep the thermostat cranked up overnight. This happens in that one rate week when temps drop to -10.
BTW, I am "wimp" exempt by default - heeheehee - I'm not a guy.
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