Automatic shutdown cripples Norochcholai for at least three days


CEB Chairman Anura Wijepala Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera, Secretary to the Ministry Dr Suren Batagoda.
Pic by Sujatha Jayaratne

by Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Electricity generating activities at Norochcholai Power Plant had been crippled yet again due to Thursday’s countrywide power outage, resulting in a reduction of 900MW from the national power grid supplied by it, Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said yesterday.

Addressing a media briefing at the Government Information Department, the Minister said that it would take about three days to re-start the operation of Norochcholai Power Plant and till then the consumers were asked to conserve electricity.

On Thursday, a countrywide power outage was reported after a key power transmission line broke down in an incident. This was the second countrywide power blackout within the past five month.

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) suspected the power outage was due to a lightning strike at the transmission line from Polpitiya to Kolonnawa.

Minister Siyambalapitiya noted that the power outage had resulted in the automatic shutdown of the Norochcholai power plant and the operation of safety valves. Due to the shutdown, the systems of the power plant should be cooled off before it could be restarted operations and it would take around three days.

Power and Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera said that there was no damage caused to the Norochcholai power plant or to any power generators of the CEB due to the lightning strike.

Perera said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had instructed the Ministry to investigate the reason for the power outage including the probing of possible sabotage.

According to Deputy Minister Perera, Premier Wickremesinghe has called an emergency meeting with the two Ministers and CEB officials yesterday evening to further discuss the situation.

Meanwhile CEB Chairman Anura Wijepala assured that there had been no sabotage and 99 per cent chance that it was due to the lightning strike.

The weather condition of the country on Thursday was a new experience as it was reported that there had been a tornado too. Therefore, lightning resulted by the bad weather condition could be the most plausible reason for the outage, Wijepala noted.

Accordingly two internal and external investigations were underway to find the cause of the Thursday’s countrywide power outage.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said an internal committee headed by CEB’s Additional General Manager A.K. Samarasinghe had launched the investigation and the report would be submitted within a week. Another external committee was also appointed and it would submit its report within a month.

According to the power ministry’s secretary Dr Suren Batagoda, demand for electricity was only 1900MW on weekends. On weekdays, the total power demand of the country was 2200MW while the total generation was 3800MW.

Dr Batagoda said that the CEB could manage the power demand until the Norochcholai become fully operational.

However, power supply in many areas was restored by Thursday night. But yet again yesterday it was reported that a power outage had occurred in some parts of the country, Dr Batagoda said, adding that the power supply which was interrupted due to the heavy showers and the restoration work was on-going.

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