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Understanding Outages

At Mohave Electric, we know you count on us to make sure the power is there when you flip the switch. And we work hard every day to make that happen. In fact, MEC maintains an exceptional reliability rating that is substantially better than the industry guideline.

Outages do happen, and when they do, our crews respond to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Outages and Restoring Power—the Basics

Members sometimes ask why some outages are only two minutes while other outages last for several hours.

The short answer is, the length of the outage depends on many circumstances such as the location, time of day, cause, system design, weather, and what equipment is needed to make repairs. Each of these factors plays a part in how quickly we are able to respond and restore power.

A very brief, momentary blink or a short two minute outage indicates that the system’s automated, self-healing network has engaged to prevent a longer outage. If you experience an outage longer than two minutes, it is important for you to call us. Even though other members may have already called to report an outage, we may not know that power to your home or business is off. The length of a sustained outage will vary, but power is generally restored within two hours.

The most common causes of outages are weather, birds, and trees. Outages are also caused by the public themselves, such as vehicles driving into components of the electric system, balloons coming in contact with power lines, and digging into underground lines.

During MEC’s business hours our Call Center handles outage calls, and at other times emergency calls are routed to an emergency service.

When the outage call is received, a “trouble ticket” is initiated, and representatives at the Call Center or emergency service contact MEC’s Operations Department. The same highly trained people that you see working on the lines during the day also provide “on-call” support in case of an outage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MEC has Operations facilities in Bullhead City which also serves Fort Mohave, Mohave Valley, and Topock, and a facility in Kingman serving Valle Vista, Hackberry, Truxton, Peach Springs, and Wikieup.

Restoring Power—the Process and Timing

Scheduled work hours for the Operations crews are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm in the winter. During summer months the hours are 6:00 am to 2:30 pm to help avoid the hottest part of the day.

If an outage call is received during scheduled work hours, MEC’s Call Center contacts the Operations Superintendent in Bullhead City or Kingman and relays the outage information from the member calls.  The information that is received about the outage may be very specific, such as reporting that a pole is down and the exact location, or a call where the member describes hearing a very loud noise. In many cases, the call is just reporting that power is off. The Superintendent uses all the information from the phone calls describing the extent and location of the outage to start a process for restoration.

The Superintendent reviews where crews are working at the time, and decides which crew will respond. Before the crew can leave their field work area, they must stop the work in progress and be certain that it is in safe, secure and reliable condition. This usually takes 30-90 minutes to complete.

Now the crew assigned to the outage can respond to the heart of the outage area and begin looking for signs of obvious issues. The distance from the crew’s work area to the outage area will affect how long it takes them to arrive at the outage.

In outlying areas such as Wikieup, it will typically take 1 ½ to 2 hours for the crew to reach the vicinity from MEC’s Kingman Operations facility.

While the crew is responding, the Superintendent goes to the substation that serves the area experiencing the outage and looks at substation data that can help determine a probable cause.

If an outage is reported during non-scheduled work hours, MEC’s Call Center or the emergency service representative contacts MEC’s “on-call” or standby crew. The response crew has 30 minutes to report to their work location in Bullhead City or Kingman. After arriving at the Operations facility, crews load the Mohave Electric trucks with tools and equipment. They are ready to depart about minutes later for investigation of the outage and to restore power.

The length of time required to reach the outage location is determined by its distance from the Operations facility. To reach outlying areas such as Wikieup, adds about 90 additional minutes of driving time.

Once on the scene, the reality, is some outages are found quicker and require less time to fix than others, and this affects the duration of the outage. Trucks are stocked with many of the replacement items needed for outage restoration. Sometimes special equipment is required and the crew will need to return to the Operations facility and then back again to the outage location.

During periods of severe weather, there may be outages in multiple locations. Crews prioritize response efforts with an emphasis on situations affecting public safety such as downed power lines.

 Occasionally outages are caused by a problem experienced by our transmission provider or power supplier. These types of outages, are rare but are the responsibility of transmission or power suppliers, although MEC crews also stand ready to help in these situations.

Along with determining the location and cause of the outage, crews may be able to re-route the power to parts of the outage area by using circuit switching equipment at the substation. The cause of the outage and the configuration of the system in the area determine whether circuit switching will help restore power quicker while crews continue to zero in on the exact trouble spot.

Reliability Improvements—Past, Present, and Future

While an outage is something that requires immediate attention, Mohave Electric’s Board of Directors and management are committed to an ongoing program of reliability improvements.  Recent MEC system improvements include reconductoring eight miles of 69kV sub transmission line, new substation in Wikieup, rebuilding 21 miles of circuits and feeders, substation transformer upgrades, CableCure underground cable rejuvenation treatment, improved substation operations, and updated system protection equipment.

MEC is beginning to use technology to help trouble shoot outages and spot potential problems before they create an outage. In conjunction with our Smart Grid and Advanced Metering Infrastructure Implementation Plan, enhanced communication equipment has been installed at substations to send important system information back to the Call Center.

Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a federal power marketing and transmission organization, is investing $42 million in improvements to the transmission backbone that feeds Mohave Electric’s distribution systems.

MEC's future reliability improvement projects include two new substations. Opalka Substation in Golden Shores is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2013, and Longtin Substation located in the undeveloped area east of Fort Mohave is expected to be operational by summer of 2014.

To download the Understanding Outages brochure, click here.

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