An industrial power plant at sunset

Hurricanes, Restoration, and Power Plant Startups

In the wake of powerful hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, residents of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have found themselves without power. This was due to downed power lines, destroyed substations and/or power plants that were knocked offline. This lack of power affects all aspects of their lives. Residents have no lights at night, power for communications equipment such as cell phones, food that is fresh, hot showers, and hot meals. In places most affected by the storms, there is a lack of air conditioning that although considered a luxury in many places has created a very dangerous situation in the hot and humid tropics, especially for the ill and elderly. Many people cannot return to work because there is no power or their workplace has been destroyed. People are frustrated, and for some in USVI and Puerto Rico, the day when their power will be restored is far from sight. As power is restored to the grid, many power plants will be brought online to support the demand. Some may even be peaking plants, which do not operate frequently, but will be needed for restoration efforts. It is imperative that power plant operators deliberately and effectively perform integrated unit startups to place their units online.

It is understandable how power plant operators and plant management may succumb to the stresses of trying to get the power to homes and businesses on as soon as practical, their personal family situations as well as the need to get their generating units started quickly and safely from a black plant status. It is important that the power plant operators, especially those responsible for control room operations remain calm and collective in their thoughts and actions and management provide the support the operators need to minimize the stress as they bring the units back on line. These are the times that the operators rely on their training, experience, and operating procedures to bring their power plants online in a safe and reliable manner.

Operators should continually recognize that power restoration will be a slow and difficult process for many residents throughout their region or country. Safe startup of units at each power plant will ensure electricity is available to the grid as more power lines are restored. Rushing through startups and causing catastrophic events at facilities that are needed for generation may serve to not only frustrate consumers even more but lead to personnel injury at the plant. Neither is something that power plant operators nor management want to be responsible for.