Skip to main content
Search Menu

COVID-19 Update: When delivering all energy efficiency programs, your health and safety is our priority. Learn more.

Blog

Behind the Scenes of Power Restoration: how we work on continuously getting better

March 29 2021, 10:00 AM

Behind the Scenes of Power Restoration: how we work on continuously getting better

We know how difficult it can be when your power is out. That’s why we continue to look at ways to improve our processes so we can be there for our customers when they need us the most.

NB Power is responsible for making sure customers have the power they need when they need it, in good weather and bad. We take this responsibility very seriously. With more than 20,000 km of distribution lines and close to 7,000 km of transmission lines, our electricity infrastructure covers a vast expanse of terrain.

Our province and our infrastructure is increasingly subject to severe weather brought on by climate change. Hurricanes, ice storms and two of the worst floods in the past 50 years are some of the extreme weather events that New Brunswick has faced in the past decade. As storms become more intense and cause major disruptions in many parts of the province, NB Power’s storm preparedness effort, conducted in collaboration with partners, has taken on greater significance and urgency.

Every year, we collaborate with the province’s Emergency Measures Organization, the Canadian Red Cross, and other partners, to emphasize the importance of being ready for storms for New Brunswickers. This approach is considered a best practice and aligns with provincial and federal agencies who adopted the integrated emergency response model.

We also have an Emergency Response Plan in place. This plan helps to ensure consistent preparedness, response, communications, and recovery practices across our entire organization. This approach in any emergency response is effective, efficient and ensures the safety of customers, employees, contractors, and the public.

Our Emergency Planning Management team is centralized for proactive decision-making and strategic planning ahead of, and during, an event. For each event, we set up local centres in affected regions to monitor outages, realign crews and reduce restoration wait times for customers.

Vegetation management is also an essential part of reliability efforts: pruning trees, removing brush, and clearing power lines help keep them free to deliver safe, reliable electricity. In the last fiscal year, we invested $5.8 million in inspecting and clearing over 1,200 km of distribution lines. We invested a further $4.4 million inspecting over 2,300 km of transmission right of ways and subsequently treating approximately 1,400 kms of those right of ways. In addition, we invested over $62 million in our transmission rebuild program, completing several life extension and storm hardening projects.

Our annual maintenance program also helps identify and respond to issues. 20 per cent of our utility poles are inspected annually, as part of a five-year cycle. A maintenance plan is established for aging poles, and our field crews perform the work to maintain the safe operation of our electrical grid. Every spring a system review of power quality is performed to establish short and long-term goals for our power supply equipment. From the reviews, NB Power then establishes a detailed plan for the following year.

These are just some of the things we do to provide electricity safely, in good weather and bad, for all New Brunswickers.

Safe access to your meter benefits everyone

March 22 2021, 09:15 AM

Safe access to your meter benefits everyone

The best part of Geoff Cowan’s job is getting to spend time outside in his community.

Geoff is a Lead Meter Reader for the Moncton area. He leads a team of employees who take readings of energy consumption on meters as well as installing new meters and doing service and inspections.

The Riverview native joined the NB Power team in 2005 after completing a Bachelor of Business Administration at UNB. After marrying his college sweetheart, Geoff was excited to start a career that included lots of fresh air and opportunities to learn and grow.

Geoff Cowan, Lead Meter Reader

Within urban centres in the province, most residential meters are read with radio frequency devices, which involves an employee traveling through neighbourhoods with a device to gather data from the street. When you get to the suburbs and more rural locations in New Brunswick, we manually read meters up close.

What might sound like a simple task can be complicated by things like locked gates, untethered dogs or construction projects that make it difficult or impossible to get to the meter.

NB Power has started taking inventory of access to residential and business meters and will be working with customers to remove barriers to easy access. This will improve safety and bill accuracy and support routine maintenance and inspections of equipment.

One of the issues Geoff and his team encounter is propane tanks too close to meters. It’s a little-known fact that national safety standards require at least 10 feet between electrical meters and fuel sources.

But Geoff says the biggest challenge for meter readers happens in our long New Brunswick winters.

“It’s not uncommon for our staff to spend hours of their day wading through deep snow to get to meters,” says Geoff. “It’s a really intense workout plus, it’s like walking around blindfolded. You can’t see the hazards lurking under the snow and ice. We have to be very careful not to get injured in the field.”

Geoff says that he always goes out of his way to thank customers who take the time to clear snow and ice to make it safer for him to get to the meter.

“It’s a small gesture that sends a big message,” said Geoff. “I find that many customers haven’t considered doing it and once they do remove the snow and see how much it can help us, they’re happy to help!”

To learn how to make sure your meter is safe and accessible, visit our Meter Safety page.

Behind the scenes of power restoration

March 3 2021, 09:09 AM

Behind the scenes of power restoration

Have you ever wondered what happens after you call NB Power to report an outage? If it happens during a storm, rest assured that lots of work has already taken place to ensure the duration of the outage is as short as possible for our customers. In this post, and through a series of articles to be featured throughout this month, we will take you behind the scenes of our power restoration efforts.

 

Before the storm

With 20,815 km of line – which is enough to stretch across Canada four times - getting the power back on after a major storm is a big job. That’s why we are constantly monitoring the weather to anticipate storms and we take action before outages happen.

You may be asking yourself; how can you prepare without knowing what will happen? Our team works year-round to minimize the impacts of outages – from equipment maintenance, vegetation management, weather monitoring and software improvements - a whole lot of effort goes into maintaining and restoring power.

We also leverage new technologies to better prepare for storms. Our Transmission and Distribution Field Operations Emergency Planning team constantly monitors the weather, and with the use of various tools, they can assess the estimated number of outages and determine where they will most likely hit.

As soon as we see the potential for outages, we determine if we need to pre-emptively dispatch crews. This is called “staging”. When crews are staged, they are placed in specific areas, and are ready to get to work as soon as it is required.  If we know a big weather event is coming our way, on top of staging our NB Power crews, we secure additional contractor crews in areas throughout the province predicted to experience the worst effects of a storm.

 

During the restoration effort

The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority. That’s why, when a storm is still raging and visibility and road conditions are bad, our crews are sometimes not able to get to access the damage immediately. But as soon as it is determined safe, we activate our power restoration plans.

Our goal is always to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. To achieve this, we need to set priorities. During an outage, you may notice that some areas have their power restored before others. This can happen because many different faults can cause an outage. Whenever this happens, NB Power must prioritize which faults will be addressed first.

We direct our resources to address the following issues in order of importance: first, we check the system and repair damage to power plants, transmission lines and substations. Then, we restore power to critical services such as hospitals, police, fire, water and communication systems. At the same time, we determine where we can make repairs that will return service to the largest number of customers in the least amount of time, such as high-density housing and large neighbourhoods. Finally, we restore power to smaller neighbourhoods and individual customers.

During storms, you may be concerned if you don’t see NB Power crews close to your home. That doesn’t mean we are not working on restoring your power. The damage to our distribution system can be far from your neighbourhood, but still impacts it.

Sometimes the cause of an outage may be difficult to locate or access, which can impact the time it takes our teams to restore your power. As soon as our team assesses the cause of an outage and initiates the plan to fix it, our website displays an estimated time when power will be restored. We update those pages with information from the field as soon as it becomes available. In some cases, this means these estimates can change. But our team will continue to work as safely and efficiently as possible until everyone is restored.

Why LED’s flicker- and how to stop it

June 28 2018, 15:42 PM

Why LED’s flicker- and how to stop it

Have you installed LED light bulbs only to have them start flickering on and off? Well, you’re not alone.

LED fixtures/bulbs are operated by an electronic driver in which some are more susceptible to noise, {voltage fluctuations}, than others depending on the quality of the fixture/bulb.

So what’s causing the flicker? It could be a number of things. But most commonly, LED bulbs may flicker or dim in your home when there are voltage fluctuations in your home’s wiring.

When electrical loads turn on and off in your home, this creates a change in voltage levels, which may cause the LED lights to occasionally dim or flicker.

But there are other reasons that may be causing your lights to dim or flicker. Let’s take a look:

  1. Inrush current from appliances

    Certain appliances in your home need more power when they first turn on. The inrush current of motors within appliances causes the voltage to drop and if the lights are on the same circuit you may see dimming of these lights. This is true for many types of lighting including LED.

    You should already have appliances on separate breakers such as your fridge, stove, washer and dryer. If this isn’t the case then a certified electrician should be called to investigate further.
  1. Loose wiring or loose bulb

    Another thing that commonly causes flickering in LED bulbs is loose connections or circuits. This is easy to fix. Just screw the LED bulb in tighter to see of that fixes the problem.  If there’s a lot of dust in the fixture, first blow out the connection points to remove the dust before putting the bulb back in. 

    There may also be loose wiring at the fixture connection point. A certified electrician will disconnect power to the fixture and re-tighten the wiring to make sure it’s tight and secure. If there are numerous light fixtures dimming at the same time then the electrician will investigate at the panel and/or junction box to ensure that all connections are properly secured.
  1. Dimmer compatibility

    Some existing and even new dimmer switches may not be compatible with LED lighting or you may have a non-dimmable light in a dimmable fixture. Carefully reading the labeling on your bulbs and fixtures and making sure you have the right bulb for the job can fix this. Dimmers also have wattage ratings which differ depending on the type of light source whether it is LED, incandescent, etc. This affects the number of light fixtures on a dimmer depending on the individual wattages of each. The practise of ganging dimmers or switches within the same back box will also further de-rate the wattage the dimmer can safely handle. A certified electrician will determine by referring to the Canadian Electrical Code the correct load permitted.

    Be sure to buy high quality with recognized certification (CSA, ULc etc.), ENERGY STAR® certified LED bulbs when upgrading your lighting in your home. 

 

How run-of-the-river stations work during the spring freshet

May 1 2018, 13:41 PM

How run-of-the-river stations work during the spring freshet

NB Power’s hydro facilities are located along the Saint John River system. They are “run of river” facilities with very little storage capability. Storage is measured in hours, unlike larger facilities like Churchill Falls in Labrador which can store water for months. Water coming from upstream into the headponds must be used for generation at that moment, or must be allowed to bypass the dam. Put simply, the water that flows in must flow out.

The Mactaquac Generating Station at full load passes water through at 80,000 cubic feet per second. Any flow greater than that must pass through the spill gates. In 2018, the Saint John River flows at Mactaquac were more than 300,000 cubic feet per second. As a result, water at Mactaquac was passing through the spillways. At high flows, above plant generating capacity, the water coming in must be released immediately to maintain the proper slope on the headpond to allow the river to flow downstream.

Essentially the river returns to its natural state during high flow events. In order to maintain the natural flow of the river and allow the water to pass the facilities safely, NB Power has very specific operating guidelines.

Water naturally runs downhill. Increased water flow requires there is adequate slope on the river or headpond to continue the natural flow of the river. In order to accomplish this, NB Power lowers the Mactaquac headpond level at the dam to maintain this slope, thus allowing the passage of natural river flow. When the river flow decreases, the headpond level will return to normal levels.

 

 

In the lower Saint John River Basin the Reversing Falls in Saint John creates a natural barrier in the river system that is essentially the narrow end of the funnel. With the current river flows being greater than 300,000 cubic feet per second, approximately only half of that water can pass through the falls at low tide. As a result, a bathtub effect is created in the lower basin whereby the water that is not able to pass through the falls backs up and cause flooding. This is compounded during sustained high flows like New Brunswick is currently experiencing.

Higher than average snow fall in North Western New Brunswick and Northern Maine coupled with rain events has resulted in these sustained high flows.

NB Power’s highly trained staff works closely with Riverwatch, the province’s Emergency Measures Organization and communities all along the river during these events.

NB Power is constantly observing and communicating river and station conditions with the goal of operating facilities with the least possible impact on the natural flow of the river while doing everything possible to keep its infrastructure and people safe.

 

               

RSS

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

Archives

Categories