Blackout Watch

System Power Outages

Author: Clare Duffy, ESBI, Ireland

Analysis of system power outages can help us learn and avoiding similar events in the future. If you have information on any blackouts, please e-mail to editor@pacw.org.

Kaliningrad, Russia: A wild lightning storm was being blamed for a massive blackout across the Kaliningrad region. Officials believe a direct hit on a high-voltage power transmission line (PTL) near Sovetsk at around 9 p.m. local time caused the power cut. The two PTLs were re-energized ten minutes later, however the automatic control system at the central heating and power plant TETS-2 caused it to discontinue generating electric power. The cut in supply de-energized thirty-six load substations, which left nearly 650,000 people without power for around 90 minutes.

Santorini, Greece: A fire in a power station on the Greek Island of Santorini left the entire island without power right at the peak of its tourist season. The cause of the fire was not known, but local authorities said they received generators and repair equipment early the next day. With the delays, power was not restored for over 24 hours, causing several cruise lines to change course for different ports.

Piauí, Brazil: Wildfires in northeastern Brazil are being blamed for a massive power outage that struck at roughly 3p.m. local time. At least 9 states were left without power, meaning tens of millions of residents were affected. Officials reported that the fires had caused the failure of at least two transmission lines which caused a drop of 10,900 megawatts of capacity in the regional transmission grid and leading to the northeastern region being disconnected from the national grid. About two hours after the outage, power had been restored to all the state capitals, but smaller communities had to wait much longer for power to be restored.

La Palma, Spain: A blackout encompassing the entire island of La Palma struck early in the day. Officials said the outage happened after a switch in a control center went down at a substation in Breña Baja. The outage left the 85,000 residents and thousands of tourists without electricity until the early evening. However, some towns and villages in the north and west did not have their power restored until the following day.

Caracas, Venezuela: A failure in a main transmission line from the Bajo Caroni region led to a blackout in 14 of Venezuela’s 23 states, including the capital city of Caracas. The outage struck early in the afternoon, mainly in the central and western regions where 60 percent of the country's power is generated. The outage affected roughly half of the nation’s 28 million residents. Power in Caracas was restored by nightfall and politicians were quick to blame each other for the incident. Venezuela has been hit by several major blackouts in the past few years, despite possessing the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Melbourne, Australia: More than 200,000 residents and businesses were without power for more than 40 minutes after a blackout struck at roughly 5:20p.m. local time. According to a United Energy spokesman, the trouble started with transmission load failures at two power stations in Heatherton and Springvale. The outage caused a number of problems for commuters, including the loss of over 100 traffic signals.

Time and location of the System & Power Disturbances in 2013

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