JPS Co’s Islandwide outage due to Jamaicans turning off their Breakers simultaneously

JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company) has been having problems with keeping the lights on (Barrett, 2016, August 27) on Saturday August 27th 2016, when the island experienced an islandwide blackout.

jps-cos-islandwide-outage-due-to-jamaicans-turning-off-their-breakers-simultaneously-3

The OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) via the Electricity Act, 2015, pointed out that JPSCo had to produce a report (The Jamaica Observer, 2016, September 1) with 30 days of the date of restoration of power to the OUR. That report, being compiled by an independent expert (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016, September 2), is due on Tuesday September 27th 2016.

Already, two employees (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016, August 30) have been suspended and are linked to a failure in the protection system (Poyser, 2016, August 30), which is described as the mechanism that safeguards against procedural errors. This prevents the Network sudden spikes or drops in Power on their Network due to sudden shifts in power usage.

So what happened to cause this protection system to fail?

JPS Co’s Islandwide outage – Jamaicans turning off their Breakers all at once

In the case of JPS Co, I suspect that the coming storm (The Weather Channel, 2016, August 30) may have cause many Jamaicans to start disconnecting their houses by turning off their breakers. This as Jamaicans may have invested in mini Diesel Generators and decided to connect them; anticipating the storm, they began to decouple from JPS Co’s Power Grid to their own private Diesel Generators.

This caused a sudden drop in load being seen by the JPS Co distribution Network, as the Power Stations were producing extra power for the anticipated Saturday electricity usage.

With nowhere for that excess power, the electricity began to overload the Network, potentially causing surge. JPS Co Protection system, detecting the possibility of an electrical surge, initiated a shutdown of the power stations distributing power due to this drop in load.

jps-cos-islandwide-outage-due-to-jamaicans-turning-off-their-breakers-simultaneously-3

This caused a cascade failure through the system as the Protection System, in a bid to protect the Power Stations Heavy Bunker Oil and Diesel Generators from burning up due to the overload, disconnected the power coming from these generators. It also stopped distributing electricity, preventing the surge from spreading through the Network.

Interestingly a week later on Friday September 2nd 2016. the FLOW Jamaica Network also experience an islandwide blackout for a similar reason; a lot of Jamaicans were also using their Network to simultaneously watch the Panama vs Jamaica on Cable TV (Deer, 2016, September) as well as make International Calls, possibly to request money for their kids to go to school.

This excessive traffic cause their Network to crash as well. I know this as when I used to work at CLARO Jamaica, we had network failures due to excessive traffic on our network, a sign of congestion and not enough capacity to handle the traffic.

JPS Co’s Protection System – Works but Systems needed to Store Surge Electricity

Bottom line, when the JPS Co makes their submission to the OUR come Tuesday September 27th 2016, they’ll also have to find a way to channel and store that Excess Electricity, should a sudden drop in load occur again due to a coming hurricane.

This would be good, as it would allow the generator to keep working at full capacity with their electricity generated being stored for future usage, instead of shutting them down.

jps-cos-islandwide-outage-due-to-jamaicans-turning-off-their-breakers-simultaneously-1

Possible solutions range from storing it in large banks of Li-Ion batteries (Luoma, 2009, July 13). JPS Co already has plans to do this in partnership with Tesla Motors (Deer, 2016, August 7), who will be selling their All-Electric Vehicles in Jamaica.

They’ll also be selling their power Storage solution in Jamaica, effectively creating extra load that’ll make such an occurrence highly improbable, being as homeowners would keep the batteries on charge anticipating a coming hurricane or disaster.

Another more novel solution to the problem of a sudden drop in load is to use that excess electricity to pump water to the top of a reservoir, which, once filed with water would effectively become a form of stored Potential Energy. This can then be converted to Potential Energy that can be used to drive hydroelectric dams (Deer, 2014, March 22) to supply power during periods of high electricity usage.

These are the best solutions that JPS Co can implement, as the Protection System works; it just need to find a place to store all that excess energy, should Jamaicans again decide to all turn off their breakers all at once anticipating a hurrricane.

References:

  1. Barrett, L. (2016, August 27). Islandwide Power Blackout, JPS Says It Is Working To Restore Electricity. Retrieved from http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20160827/islandwide-power-blackout-jps-says-it-working-restore-electricity
  2. Deer, L. (2014, March 22). How June on El Hierro in Canary Islands to become the first Territory to go 100 percent Renewable. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2014/03/june-on-el-hierro-canary-islands.html
  3. Deer, L. (2016, September 6). FLOW Jamaica Network Outage due to 1 Million Satisfied Customers. Retrieved from http://geezam.com/flow-mobile-broadband-network-outage/
  4. Luoma, J.R. (2009, July 13). The Challenge for Green Energy: How to Store Excess Electricity. Retrieved from http://e360.yale.edu/feature/the_challenge_for_green_energy_how_to_store_excess_electricity/2170/
  5. Poyser, A. (2016, August 30). Protection Failure – JPS Says System Flaw Caused Islandwide Blackout. Retrieved from http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20160830/protection-failure-jps-says-system-flaw-caused-islandwide-blackout
  6. The Jamaica Gleaner. (2016, August 30). JPS Suspends Two Employees Following All-Island Power Blackout. Retrieved from http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20160830/jps-suspends-two-employees-following-all-island-power-blackout
  7. The Jamaica Gleaner. (2016, September 2). JPS Hiring Expert To Assess Protection System. Retrieved from http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20160902/jps-hiring-expert-assess-protection-system
  8. The Jamaica Observer. (2016, September 1). JPS gets 30 days to submit details of islandwide blackout. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-gets-30-days-to-submit-details-of-islandwide-blackout_72600
  9. The Weather Channel. (2016, August 30). Hurricane and Tropical Storm Watches Issued: Tropical Depression Nine Takes Aim on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Retrieved from https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/tropical-depression-nine-tropical-storm-hurricane
  10. Deer, L. (2016, August 7). JPSCo US$5 million Smart Grid and Tesla Motors Battery Storage Tech Fixes Low Power Periods. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2016/08/JPSCo-US5-million-Smart-Grid-Tesla-Motors.html
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