BIPCo powers through blizzard

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 8:45am

Despite some minor issues, Block Island weathered the blizzard of Jan. 4, with wind gusts of up to 70 miles an hour, without losing power. While the storm delivered about 12 inches of snow on the island, the lights remained on, which is a credit to the Block Island Power Company and its staff.

BIPCo President Jeffery Wright told The Block Island Times that there were only two minor outage issues during the snowstorm, and both were addressed in expedient fashion. Wright kept the island community updated with photos, video and informational posts on social media throughout the storm.

“We experienced one outage that affected The Spring House complex at around 6 a.m.,” said Wright. “The wind caused a fuse cutout to fail. The crews had that back on by 8 a.m. We had one other call on High Street that was fixed fairly quickly. Other than those two outages the only other problem was a momentary blink on the circuit feeding the Post Office, but a cause was not found and we haven’t had any further issues.” 

Wright said there were four contributing factors in keeping the lights on: “The snow was relatively light in moisture content so it did not stick to the lines or trees. The recent tree trimming helped keep the main lines clear of tree contacts and slapping. Recent attention to line maintenance definitely helped, and the connection to the Block Island Wind Farm and mainland cable were solid. National Grid had very few problems so the supply was solid.”  

Meaghan Wims, spokesperson for Deepwater Wind, told The Times that, “The Block Island Wind Farm fared well during this massive storm event. It was producing power during the early parts of the storm until mid-afternoon on Thursday, when sustained wind gusts exceeded 55 miles per hour and we shut down. Late on Thursday evening, the wind farm began producing power again as wind speeds began to occasionally dip back into our operable range, when sustained gusts are lower than 55 miles per hour. We are expecting to have several days of very high production as winds will remain strong.”

As for BIPCo’s ability to maintain power, Wright credits the company’s preparation prior to the storm. “We were as prepared as we could’ve been, and each time we had to respond the trucks were warmed up, chained up, and ready to roll,” he said. “The guys are much better equipped now with state-of-the-art foul weather gear, and other things that make working in the elements more bearable.”

“The BIPCo team was very proactive prior to the storm and that showed by the quick response times,” said Wright. “On the power supply side, we warmed the diesel generators and reviewed our start up procedures in preparation for a cable/mainland outage if we experienced one, which fortunately we did not.”

Wright said BIPCo is “trying to reassure the community that we are at the ready, and we understand the reliance on power to heat homes, maintain business operations and keep our customers’ homes lit. We take that responsibility seriously, and want everyone to know that we are there for them and what the status of the grid is. Our commitment doesn’t stop at the electric meter, our job is to support the community in every way we can.”