Molokai Power Outage Explained
The island-wide power outage Sunday night that left thousands without electricity for approximately eight hours was caused by a pole fire at the Pala`au Substation, according to a statement issued by Maui Electric Company (MECO).
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, Molokai’s three primary electric generators operated by MECO tripped offline. This was caused by a fire at the top of a pole at the power plant that appears to have started from a contaminated insulator, stated MECO.
“Over time, insulators that hold the electric line to the pole can become soiled by salt spray and dust,” said MECO spokesperson Kau`i Awai-Dickson. “When light rain falls on a contaminated insulator, the rain water creates a path from one end of the insulator to the other, causing an arc that can result in a fire.”
The fire caused a fault in the electrical lines that resulted in a sudden drop in frequency which set in motion an automatic generation load shed. A load shed is a safety mechanism that protects the electrical system during severe disruptions by turning off power to some or all customers, according to MECO’s statement.
MECO Molokai crews worked through the night to replace the pole and conduct repairs. Power restoration began shortly after 5 a.m. and all Molokai customers were back in service by 6:30 a.m. Monday.
MECO extends a sincere apology to all of our customers on Molokai and thanks everyone affected for their patience and understanding.
I did not realize how dependent we are to electricity until the lights went out. Thank MECO employees for getting it back on. It was very surreal how the island look without any street lights on.