Thursday, 28 May 2020 17:34

Duke Energy looking at ways to reduce power outages in Richmond County, Carolinas

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Duke Energy looking at ways to reduce power outages in Richmond County, Carolinas William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County has recently seen its share of thunderstorms.

And with those storms have come massive power outages.

A severe storm last Friday downed more than a dozen trees and left thousands in the dark. 

Residents in one section of Rockingham even lost power as Tropical Depression Bertha passed through the area Wednesday. 

Several residents took to social media to complain about the outages, including Rockingham City Councilman John Hutchinson.

“As a state-sanctioned monopoly in the areas they serve, Duke Energy should be held to a high service standard,” Hutchinson said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening.

“These frequent power blackouts are unacceptable,” he continued. “The fact that Duke Energy customers have no alternative power company to use is not — not — a license for Duke to provide shoddy service.”

Hutchinson said neighbors estimate there have been 10 power outages in the past two months.

Parts of the county, including where he lives, were without electricity for three days following a severe storm last month.

He told the RO that service was out again Thursday morning, after being out for three hours Wednesday night.

Thursday morning’s outage also led to Caddy’s Chill & Grill not opening until later in the day, according to a Facebook post.

Hutchinson added that the power was out nearly a whole day last weekend while his wife and children were trying to upload end-of-year piano work videos and flickered multiple times while she was doing end-of-grade tests.

“Terrible to lose power on a timed test due to a power outage....when there’s just a small storm,” he said.

The reason for the outages, according to Jeff Brooks, grid improvement communication manager for Duke Energy, has been mostly due to the increase in storms.

Brooks said Duke has seen a few pockets of multiple outages across the Carolinas.

Many old trees in small towns have been blown over onto lines when there are strong winds associated with soaking rains that soften the ground.

Many of those trees are outside of the company’s right-of-way, which allows them to trim vegetation that gets too close to the lines.

“We’re limited in what we can do,” he said of those circumstances.

In Rockingham, there was an issue Brooks said wasn’t obviously recognizable, but is hopefully fixed.

Part of a line was damaged, causing the line to make contact with the pole, activating safety mechanisms and resulting in service issues. However, crews found the problem and made repairs.

Brooks said he doesn't anticipate that being a problem anymore.

“We are making improvements all across the state … looking to increase reliability,” Brooks said.

One option, which in some cases Brooks said “makes good sense,” is moving lines underground.

However, he said those are more expensive, take longer to repair and could result in the company having to take out older, picturesque trees that give small towns their charm.

Another “exciting new technology” that the company is implementing is a “self-healing” ability, which is part of Duke’s grid improvement initiative.

Brooks said the technology will allow the company to identify outages when they occur and reroute power  — similar to the way GPS reroutes drivers  — to alternate lines if they’re available.

That would allow Duke to restore as many customers as possible who aren’t in the main vicinity of the source of the outage.