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Faulty distribution switch behind Friday’s power outage

A fault in a network distribution switch resulted Last Friday night in “the most serious and significant” power outage for several years, leaving three quarters of the community in the dark, the Gibraltar Electricity Authority said.

Most of Gibraltar was plunged into darkness on Friday following just after 8.30pm, although the GEA was able to commence restoring power just over an hour later.

“This outage was the most serious and significant in some years and was mitigated by the equipment responding properly in shutting down and thereby preventing any further damage or incident,” the GEA said in a statement.

“The outage was caused by a fault in the 11KV High Voltage Distribution Switch and not by a failure in the power generation at the North Mole Power Station.”

“The fault in the switch correctly isolated the damage to ensure that no further damage occurred and that work on restoring power to affected areas could commence.”

The GEA said the design of this high voltage equipment had effectively safeguarded the remaining healthy elements of the distribution centre, enabling engineers to reconfigure the power grid and reconnect power by bypassing the damaged distribution switch.

The emergency power supply through the skid generators contracted to the GEA were of no use as the fault was in the switch gear and not in the power generation and supply, which was working normally.

The GEA underscored the need for safety in responding to such outages.

“It is of critical importance in these situations involving high voltage generation and distribution that every precaution is taken when investigating faults and restoring power to consumers to protect the employees of the GEA as their safety is of paramount importance,” the authority said.

“The work of restoring power is only commenced when it is deemed safe to do so by the technical team at the GEA.”

“The GEA is pleased to report that it has over the weekend fully repaired the damage to the High Voltage Distribution Switch, and the power station is now operating normally again.”

The GEA said it was taking advice on the damage and considering a warranty claim.

It also apologised to customers for the outage and said it continued to work to limit interruptions to its service.

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