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Voltage ‘increase’ sparks concerns, residents report appliance damage

Wednesday 29 May 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy, Local, National


Voltage ‘increase’ sparks concerns, residents report appliance damage
Te Aponga Uira is undertaking a project to replace critical infrastructure (generation switch gear) in its power station. TAU/24052811

The Rarotonga electricity provider is under fire for allegedly supplying higher voltage after a power station upgrade, with some residents and businesses reporting damaged appliances.

Te Aponga Uira (TAU) is undertaking a project to replace critical infrastructure (generation switch gear) in its power station, the electricity provider announced earlier this month.

It said the work will require some unavoidable outages to the electricity supply in Rarotonga in May and June. The first of these island-wide outages occurred on Sunday, May 19, from 1am. This outage lasted at least four hours.

Yesterday, a Rarotonga-based engineer Reuben Finch took to social media claiming TAU is supplying power at a higher voltage since the upgrade on May 19.

In a post on the Rarotonga-Community and Beyond Facebook page, Finch also attached a graph that showed an increase in the average voltage following the upgrade work.

“Prior to the 19th, it averaged 237V rms, now closer to 250V rms,” Finch said in his post. “Given that so many of our devices are designed for New Zealand/Australia 230v +6%, we are sitting right at the very edge of tolerable supply before connected devices are damaged.”

“Has anyone experienced TVs/Fridges/Aircon units failing in the last two weeks? Does anyone know why TAU increased the voltage?”

In a statement to Cook Islands News, TAU said the reconfiguration of the network has meant that “we have had to adjust the voltage at specific points of the network”.

TAU said the voltage mentioned by Finch is within the Energy Regulations 2006 of the Cook Islands. These regulations state that the supply voltage is 415v for three-phase and 240v for single-phase.

It quoted the Energy Regulations 2006, which state that “the voltage at the consumer’s point of supply shall be designed except for momentary fluctuations within 6 percent (6%) above or below the standard voltage”.

“We can’t comment further on the data posted and how this information was measured as there are a number of factors on the network that can affect voltage, including solar connections.

“We encourage customers concerned to please contact TAU directly.”

Finch told Cook Islands News he only noticed the increased voltage because his home has a system that tracks grid voltage

“Nothing in our home has been damaged by the change. I’m interested to know if the change was intentional or just an oversight during the upgrades,” he said.

However, others who commented on Finch’s post reported experiencing problems with their electrical appliances, including some getting “fried”.

“I had a smart TV which got fried due to the increase in voltage recently as a result of the planned outage. The tech at Jaycars said the same thing, the increase is 250 V rms which is at critical level for most of the appliances on the island. The thing is my TV was on a surge protector even. Could TAU have notified the public if they were aware of the increase in voltage I wonder?” a Rarotonga resident commented.

Another resident reported that their two modems fried during the power outage. After a technician inspected and replaced the modems, the resident was informed that power surges likely caused the damage.

“I have raised this matter with a senior member of Te Aponga directly already via email. They seemed to think it was an isolated incident and only our place and business were affected.

“TAU also mentioned it was our responsibility to protect our own devices from power surges, etc. My response to this was that if they had given us any kind of warning to expect these power surges then we all definitely would have taken precautions. But they didn’t warn us at all! Just advised us of a power outage – that’s it. I dug their notices up and read them again several times to confirm.”

Businesses also reported damages to their appliances.

A resort operator said: “We have had a number of motherboards get fried in our aircon units. Hugely expensive to replace.”

“My wine fridge died following the power outage and it was plugged into a surge protector. A very expensive thing to replace,” another stated.

In the statement, TAU said since the start of their switchgear replacement project a few weeks ago “the network has been temporarily reconfigured so that we are able to continue supplying power to the Rarotonga community during this project”.

“Reliable supply to Rarotonga is important to us, and we are carefully monitoring and managing the performance of our system over the term of the upgrade project. The upgrade is expected to run for another four weeks.”

The second planned island-wide outage as part of this work will take place from 1am this Sunday, June 2, 2024. This outage is expected to last at least four hours.

“TAU is planning at least one further outage of a similar nature in coming weeks, and will inform customers as soon as it has confirmed those details.”