Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw was a little nervous about Sunday's first use of Kaitaia's 11 generators, which were called upon to keep electricity flowing for all but one of 11,890 customers (JNL's mills do not operate over the weekend) while essential maintenance work was done, but he need not have been.
The transition to the generators and back again at the end of the day was seamless, signalling a major shift in how maintenance on the 110kV line into Kaitaia and other parts of the network will be undertaken in the future.
The long-term intention, Top Energy said, was to maintain power during outages to minimise disruption in the community.
In the past back-up generation could only supply 4290 customers from the lines company's generators at Taipa.
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The company was very grateful for the co-operation and support of the community in helping to "lighten the load" by using power conservatively during the day, that being essential to the success of the "trial". Shaw had been cautiously optimistic that the generators would support a large power load, but there was a risk of tripping if their capacity was reached.
They had exceeded expectations in the first test run of this scale, however. Once the morning peak was over the company was able to assess how they were operating, and removed one generator from the bank until it was required when the load began rising again later in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, poor weather into the lead-up to Sunday made access in some areas difficult, preventing full completion of the work scheduled, but the prioritised tasks had been done, and the remainder had been rescheduled for completion in February/March.
Meanwhile, once Sunday's maintenance programme was completed, about 5.30pm, the network was gradually reconnected to the national grid and the generators progressively turned off. That took about an hour, and the synchronising of the Top Energy network with the grid went without incident.
The work required nine crews of approximately 40 people, including some who cleared the line of trees while others monitored the generators and substations, and oversaw the network from the control room at Top Energy's head office.