Taipower Data hint at causes of power outage

In the wake of the power outage yesterday, it’s worth looking at Taipower’s supply data for hints as to possible contributing factors.

The cause of the outage was a tripped busbar, or human error, or a surge in demand that exceeded capacity… the news seems to be all over the place. The sudden loss of 2 gigawatts — GW (2,000 megawatts –MW) at 2pm during peak demand tripped out the entire grid, resulting in the rolling blackouts experienced yesterday. Engineers working in the energy sector have told me that only the loss of 4GW or more would take down the entire grid. This raises suspicions that reserves were already dangerously low before the outage. The fact that Taipower’s website went dark in the aftermath of the outage, no doubt caused by a surge in traffic, didn’t help allay suspicions.

Possible contributing factors include:

  • Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant 3 unit 1 is down for maintenance, bringing the current contribution  by nuclear to less than 9%.
  • Hydro is less than 1%.
  • Diesel generators at Kuosheng NPP2 and Maanshan NPP3 are running at full steam – those are intended as backup power in the event of a reactor outage, not for meeting demand at 10:30 at night.

With Maanshan unit-1 offline, and hydro and pumped storage out of commission, that raises questions as to what the reserve margins really were just prior to the shutdown.

Meanwhile, coal, including Taipower-owned, IPP, and cogen, is at 41.24%, and LNG, including both Taipower and IPP, is at over 47%. Taipower is running most of these units at over 90% capacity – really high for gas, and I wonder how many days LNG supply that leaves us with.

Kuosheng NPP unit-1 will shut down permanently soon — probably in the next few weeks. I assume they are doing their best to at least keep it running until Maanshan unit 1 is back in operation. Kuosheng is scheduled to be retired at the end of this year, but with its spent fuel storage pools fully saturated, the reactor cannot be refueled and will be shut down early. Everyone I talked with in the power sector is surprised they have managed to keep it running for as long as they have.

Taiwan looks set for another interesting summer in power~

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