|FTLComm - Tisdale - April 9, 1999|
|This was the culprit that darkened much of North Eastern Saskatchewan Thursday night.
A transformer in this substation just North of Tisdale failed at 8:25 PM. This sudden
disruption in load caused the breakers to go in the direct feed to this site at the
large Beatty substation between Melfort and Kinistino. When these breakers switched
off electrical power was cut to Melfort, Naicam, Hudson Bay and everything in between.
The main power grid comes from the Nipawin area damns and feeds by high line across country to the central Beatty distribution substation that lowers the voltage and moves power to other areas. A substation near Codette provides the drop to the Nipawin, Carrot River and Arborfield areas so they were not affected by the outage since their source was upstream of the Beatty substation.
However, when operators attempted to restore power at the Beatty substation there was no indication as to the cause of the failure. This second failure resulted in even more power outages and prevented the rapid restoration of service. The system is designed to cope with a failure like the one that occurred at Tisdale but for reasons unknown the signaling equipment that should have flagged the problem also failed and when the breakers were reset there was a massive power surge which hit the substation South of Prince Albert and blackout the City of Prince Albert and all lines that served communities North as far as La Ronge. SaskPower knew what caused this surge it was a straightforward problem and power was restored to Prince Albert and La Ronge in half an hour. In the mean time SaskPower workers were trying to find the cause of the failure that had tripped the Beatty substation and around 10:30 they were able to isolate some of the area and power was restored to Melfort and Star City and up to a mile West of Valparaiso. It took another hour to find and fix the problem that had started this whole process.
SaskPower prides themselves in having a secure system with redundancy that can cope with the failure of a transformer and in almost all cases can restore power after about thirty minutes when either equipment fails or a line is damaged. The last large power outage in this area occurred in the Beatty area when a farmer burning stubble toasted a power pole two years ago and brought down the system as the pole was on the main line serving Melfort and Tisdale. Last night's power outage was merely a series of failures that combined to make restoration of the system difficult. The failure of the system to detect the origin of the problem was the most crucial failure rather then the transformer quitting. Transformers have a limited lifetime and can quit unexpectedly but not knowing where the problem occurred made fixing the situation uncommonly difficult.
One SaskPower worker laughingly joked that they were just helping out with preparations for "nooky night" since human gestation is 266 days tomorrow night is the time conception would need to take place if someone was planning to have a New Years Millennium baby.
Many others have realised that the series of difficulties that SaskPower experienced last night are precisely the sort of thing, though on a much smaller scale, that welcome in the New Year. Failure in the North American grid due to programming errors created by the so-called "Y2K" bug (the inability of older computer systems to recognise four digit year date) could conceivably cascade through the operational electrical networks. It was a pleasant +8 last night so for most people it was just a minor inconvenience but on January 1, 2000 temperatures here will be definitely well below freezing.