NEW ORLEANS – Entergy said on Wednesday it would slowly turn the lights back on in New Orleans after the first powerhouse and transmission lines in the city were restored late the day before.
Deanna Rodriguez, CEO of Entergy New Orleans, said the New Orleans power plant east of New Orleans was connected to one of the main transmission lines that enter the city from Slidell on Tuesday evening. , allowing the first electricity in the hampered metropolis since the devastating Hurricane Ida winds put the city into a total blackout on Sunday night.
She said power to about 11,500 customers was restored initially, including homes in the Little Woods neighborhood, the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Fire Department of the New Orleans.
Entergy New Orleans announced that it restored power to the first customers in the New Orleans area on Wednesday morning, days after Hurricane Ida destroyed all eight transmission lines that carry electricity through the region.
“It is steadily increasing,” she said. However, she couldn’t say now that it would take time to make substantial progress towards restoring power to the majority of New Orleans residents, who are living their third full day without power.
“We are moving from the eastern area of ââNew Orleans, to Ninemile on the West Rim, west to southeast then back – almost in a loop.” said May. This is the general direction they will follow, Entergy has given no timeline for when customers would be reconnected.
Regarding the damage, Entergy said 5,000 poles, 5,200 transformers and nearly 750 power supplies were affected by the storm. “This restoration will be slow and steady, but the number of people restored will continue to grow.”
Entergy New Orleans has about 200,000 commercial and residential customers, all of whom have been without power since Sunday evening. In addition, approximately 800,000 customers of Entergy Louisiana in other suburban parishes were deprived of power by the storm, causing the utility to lose the eight main transmission lines that supply the metropolitan area with electricity.
Rodriguez and Phillip May, CEO of Entergy Louisiana, offered various analogies as to why the restoration of electricity would be gradual and unpredictable.
They described it as a delicate balancing act of gradually lighting up parts of the grid so as not to risk overloading the New Orleans power plant and other sources, and triggering them again.
âIt would mean we had to start all over again,â May said.
In recent days, there has been a lot of debate about the role of the new power plant, which began commercial operation in the spring of 2020 and was at the center of much controversy as city council considered approving the plant in 2017 and 2018.
May made it clear on Wednesday that the station was never designed to maintain electricity in the city at times like this. The tiny natural gas-fired power station has a production capacity of just 128 megawatts, enough to supply less than 10% of the city’s energy needs under normal circumstances.
However, he said the plant plays a vital role in restoring electricity in situations like the one the city is currently facing. It is a modular station, which means that it can gradually add 8-10 megawatts at a time to bring in new parts of the network without risking overloading the system.
âWe’re doing this step by step, and the New Orleans Power Plant allows us to do it,â May said. “Then we will bring in some more electricity from Ninemile 6”, the Westwego power station, which has a capacity of 560 megawatts.
âUltimately we will have a line to the west and we will have a full loop in the city and that will provide even more redundancy and capacity to meet the needs of the city,â said May.
Entergy executives avoided answering questions about how long it would take most of the 1 million customers currently in the dark to get back online. They also did not specify the extent of damage to major transmission lines that typically provide most of the electricity needed to power the city.
Normally, New Orleans needs about 1,300 megawatts of generating capacity to keep the lights on. The deals between Entergy New Orleans and City Council, its regulator, mean most of the electricity is purchased from the massive Union Power Station in El Dorado, Arkansas, which has a total capacity of around 2 gigawatts.
The utility also obtains about 20% of its electricity from the Ninemile 6 plant and imports other electricity from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the regional grid, which allows it to tap sources in 15 US states and the Canadian province of Manitoba. .
The NOPS plant is generally only used to provide marginal power at peak times and to provide some flexibility.
With NOPS and the supply from Ninemile 6 and the flexibility of the transmission line coming from Slidell, the total capacity will not exceed 700 megawatts, May said. That would be just over half of the city’s typical energy needs, although electricity consumption is temporarily much lower with much of the population evacuated.
May said that as power is gradually restored, starting with critical infrastructure, like hospitals, the Sewerage & Water Board and emergency responders, some adjacent neighborhoods will also be restored. He also said “social infrastructure”, including gas stations and grocery stores, would be prioritized.