Starting at 6 a.m. tomorrow (Dec. 16), Hatteras and Ocracoke will be on generator power until Dec. 22 while Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative sever and move electric cables at the Bonner Bridge in preparation for the bridge’s replacement.
CHEC made the call this morning to sever the main electric cables tomorrow that power the lower Outer Banks islands.
This is a first step that must be completed before construction of the replacement of the bridge can begin in March.
Once the cables are cut and while they are being spliced back together, there is no going back and it will be the generators for seven days.
Here’s how it works: The power lines travel across the Bonner Bridge and then underground to a structure on the south side of the bridge, which is called a “riser.” This riser is where underground lines transition to overhead lines.
The current riser must be moved out of the way to make room for the new construction. And a new temporary riser must be built until the bridge is finished and a new permanent riser constructed.
The current–or “old”–riser is on the west side of Highway 12, just south of the bridge, and the new temporary structure is about 350 feet to the south.
To make the transition from the current riser to the new one, the lines must be cut and spliced back together, a job that the contractor and CHEC expect to take about seven days. The contractor on the job is New River Construction, which attached the new 115kV line to the bridge in 1995.
CHEC executive vice-president and general manager Susan Flythe said ideally the project would have been done in a month such as October where the weather would be more favorable.
However, a lawsuit that held up the bridge construction for several years was just settled this summer. An announcement of the settlement was made in June and it all became legal in mid-August.
Starting the project in October wasn’t possible, Flythe said, because the job had to be coordinated with the contractor and the delivery of materials, some of which had to come from Europe, where the original transmission line was manufactured.
To prepare to do the job in mid-December, CHEC managers looked at power loads for past Decembers. The seven days that would be needed looked good.
The load has seldom exceeded 20 megawatts, and Flythe said that a good cushion is required to make it all work.
The two islands can provide 18 megawatts–15 MW from generators at its Buxton plant and 3 MW from the Ocracoke generator. Three 2-MW portable generators have been brought in for a total of 24 megawatts to handle the projected power load and have a cushion
While the islands are on generator power, you can follow the progress in real time on CHEC’s Facebook and Twitter, where regular updates will be posted. Click here for CHEC’s website.
However, to help make sure the generators don’t get overloaded, here are a few tips on energy conservation from CHEC:
- Lower the thermostat: If you have your heat on, consider lowering the temperature by as much as 10 degrees to a setting of 68 or lower.
- Consider cold water settings when washing your laundry.
- Turn off the pre-rinse and heat-dry settings on your dishwasher.
- Take advantage of blinds and curtains: Open them during the day, especially on windows that face south. Let the sunshine in and warm your home. Close them at night to help insulate.
- Keep ceiling fans off. Although you may think that you are blowing down warm air, people also feel a chill from the flow of air.
- Conserving power can be as simple as unplugging small appliances, chargers for phones and tablets, which draw energy when they aren’t in use.
The Island Free Press contributed to this story.