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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rolling blackouts hit Big Island

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — For the first time in more than a year, Hawaii Electric Light Co. resorted to rolling blackouts yesterday after an equipment failure halved power production at a plant in Hamakua.

The problems at the 60-megawatt Hamakua Energy Partners' plant at the Haina Mill cut power at 1:02 p.m. to 8,900 customers in Glenwood, Volcano, Honoka'a, Hilo, Captain Cook and Waikoloa, said Jay Ignacio, HELCO spokesman.

The problems happened at a time when a 20.4-megawatt combustion turbine in Puna and a 13.5-megawatt steam generator in Hilo were out of service while undergoing repairs, Ignacio said. In addition, Puna Geothermal Venture is producing less electricity than usual after a fire last week damaged one of its 10 generators.

Further compounding the problem was the failure of an 11.5-megawatt combustion turbine at the Kanoelehua Baseyard in Hilo that was supposed to function as a backup source.

Ignacio said HELCO was unable to find enough alternate sources to restore power to all of its customers when the power from the Hamakua plant dropped off, and it was necessary to shift to a rolling blackout pattern.

Power was interrupted to about 1,800 customers in Kailua, Kona, at 2:05 p.m., but was restored by 2:28 p.m., Ignacio said.

Yesterday marks the first rolling blackouts for the Big Island since November 2002, Ignacio said.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 935-3916.