Another catastrophic failure of rental generator, second one this year as power rationing continue

Lightning storm on Friday night caused major damage forcing Niue Power to ration power with only one generator carrying the load

On Tuesday night last week, a catastrophic failure of the rental generator caused power outage affecting the northern and eastern side of the island, in what is the second time a ‘catastrophic failure’ of a rental generator has caused power outage.

In January this year, Director of Utilities Clinton Chapman told BCN News that the rental generator that was flown over from New Zealand by a Hercules C130 in July 2022 suffered a ‘catastrophic failure’ over the Christmas/New Year period.

Last week, Clinton Chapman explained that a failure of internal engine components caused the major damage to the rental generator which caused power outage to half the island.

Pictures taken of the damage show a large hole on the side of the generator which indicates some kind of an explosion. BCN News was not permitted to show those pictures until the engineers have completed their investigation as to what happened but it’s understood that the pictures have been shared on social media.

Minister of Infrastructure Hon. Crossley Tatui in a statement to BCN News said “Arrangements are in place for Teracat engineers to come over and assess the damage properly” 

In the meantime, Director of Utilities and Niue Power Clinton Chapman is calling on the public to help minimise the load by using power conservatively while they work on flying up a replacement generator. Chapman told BCN News that he has been in discussions with the New Zealand High Commission to seek their assistance in flying up a replacement generator and because of the full flights to Niue, to also transport the engineers if they are not able to get a seat on today’s flight.

Since Wednesday last week Niue Power has been using two of the older generators, which are of much smaller capacity, even with both working to charge the battery energy system. 

These two generators don’t have the capacity to meet the islands energy demands hence the reason, during peak hours from 6pm to 10pm, power is being rationed, where certain areas will be switched off.

Chapman said that “that the damaged rented generator is able to meet the whole island power load but the island power load over the last year has increased markedly, so our two older generators are undersized. That is why we are asking for users to conserve power so as to reduce the island load and avoid rationing.”

Minister Tatui said “It is most unfortunate the damage is uncontrollable and unfortunate from within, possibly due to stress factors.  Teracat company are equally perplexed by the incident and are working closely with the manufacturer.”

Chapman said that the department is grateful to the people on the island for their efforts to minimise the use of power at this time, as they try to resolve the situation. They have also asked that the premises with standby generators be switched on during peak hour to help ease the load and avoid power rationing. 

On the News of the Week radio programme last Friday, Chapman said that unfortunately there are limitations in the system to equitably share the pain, but more often it is the villages at the end of the Northern feeder who suffer regular power outages, starting from Matalave heading north all the way to Liku.

Local businesses including Swansons are doing their part to to help by using their back-up generator to help ease the load. The airport has been running on a back-up generator since Thursday last week to ensure the check in system is not affected for the flight today.

In the meantime, locals are asking questions as to why ‘catastrophic failures’ of rental generators keep happening.

Last month former Niue Power Manager Brandon Kulatea left after completing his contract meanwhile questions remain over the capacity of the staff of Niue Power if these major issues keep happening.

Clinton Chapman told BCN News that until replacement generator is flown up from New Zealand, the island will continue with power rationing and ask locals to conserve power.

The new power station will not be ready until the end of the year and in the meantime, the plan is to continue to rent generators.

It is not clear when the replacement generator will arrive on the island.

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