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Lights out in Raro: Switch gear fumbles, planned outage looms

Friday 17 May 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National, Technology

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Lights out in Raro: Switch gear fumbles, planned outage looms
Te Aponga Uira staff restoring a cable fault. TE APONGA UIRA/24051608

A failed switch gear in the Tupapa substation caused this week’s unexpected power outage as Rarotonga’s electricity provider announces a planned outage for this weekend.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a sudden and unexpected power outage plunged homes into darkness affecting customers from Takuvaine to Matavera.

The cause of this temporary loss of power has been identified by Te Aponga Uira (TAU) as a failed switch gear in the Tupapa substation, a crucial component of the local electrical infrastructure. Switch gear sits at the heart of the electricity generation hardware, connecting generation to demand.

A spokesperson from Te Aponga Uira said although these are checked regularly sometimes these things do happen.

The power outage occurred at 12:44am, and at 1:51am the power was restored to customers in Takuvaine, Matavera and parts of Tupapa. As of 4:53am the power was fully restored to all affected customers.

TAU plans its maintenance and replacement work to minimise unplanned events and to keep the power supply reliable, said the spokesperson.

In a statement this week, TAU says it’s about to begin a project to replace critical infrastructure (generation switch gear) in its power station.

The work will require some unavoidable outages to the electricity supply in Rarotonga in May and June, with the first of a series of island-wide outages taking place on Sunday, May 19, from 1am. This outage is expected to last at least four hours.

“Outages are being carefully planned for minimal disruption to residents and visitors, with our team working through the night at our generation site and around the island to carry out this critical work,” the statement said.

“Switch gear sits at the heart of the electricity generation hardware, connecting generation to demand. TAU operates two switch rooms, which are connected to enable reliable supply to Rarotonga.

“The switch gear in one of its switch rooms is over 30 years old and has enabled TAU to provide reliable electricity to homes and businesses in Rarotonga over that time. It has come to the end of its life and needs replacing.”

TAU has suggested that users with backup generators check if they are working in advance of this outage.

“We also suggest this is a good reminder to check you have essential supplies, such as flashlights and non-perishable food, and make any necessary arrangements for medical devices that require electricity.”