Local power: why the lights stayed on

by Andru McCracken


A problem with power transmission lines near Kamloops almost took the power out on November 7th.

BC Hydro made automated telephone calls to residents warning them of an emergency outage from 6-8pm, but technicians managed to keep the power on using local power generation.

Avola and Blue River, however, did experience the outage.

Bob Gammer, media relations for BC Hydro in Prince George, said an emergency outage was scheduled in order to safely repair a broken cross-arm on a transmission structure north of the Brocklehurst Substation near Kamloops.

According to Gammer, BC Hydro used the Castle Mountain Hydro independent power project (IPP) and diesel generators to keep the valley running.

Gammer said this won’t be an option for every outage.

“We are going to try to use this configuration for emergencies like this. But it is dependent on the load and what we are able to supply. We had a low enough load that … we could do it,” he said. He said the run-of-river IPPS don’t produce as much now as in spring or summer. In the coldest winter months the loads can be higher and the IPPs produce even less power because creek flows drop to very little.

“In every situation we’ll have to have a good look at it,” said Gammer. “This is kind of new.”

John Wheeler, the president of Castle Mountain Hydro IPP posted online a half hour before the outage.

“If all goes according to plan, there shouldn’t be an outage from Dome Creek to Albreda.” he said.

He also suggested people turn off delicate equipment just in case.

At 9 pm Wheeler posted again.

“That worked out great. Three IPPs and the McBride diesels kept the whole valley’s power on, and BCH was able to switch seamlessly off and back on the grid,” he said.