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ASPA: Underground power line fault cause of major power outages

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Western side mainly affected

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa Power Authority says an underground power line fault was the cause of a major power outage Sunday on the western side of Tutuila, most specifically those living between Lepuapua and Fagamalo, where residents went without power for about 24-hours.

Samoa News notes that several areas of the western side were affected, including areas in Tualauta — especially the Ottoville area, where residents encountered two separate power outages on Sunday. The first occurred after 1a.m. and power was back on before daylight; however, before 4:30p.m Sunday electricity went out again and didn’t come back on until 1:42a.m yesterday, Monday.

Two hours after the 4:30p.m outage, Samoa News contacted ASPA Customer Service, after complaints from Ottoville residents of the long power outage. A customer service representative explained that it was a temporary power shutdown to allow the switching of generators to provide electricity from the Leone to Alataua county.

The representative gave no time frame of when the power was to be restored. Samoa News later learned that the majority of the affected areas on the far west side of Tutuila had not had any electricity since early Sunday morning — a result of the first power outage.

In a statement report yesterday morning and responding to media inquiries, ASPA acting executive director, Wallen Young provided details and timeline of what happened.

“ASPA sincerely apologies for the power outage, especially to residences living between Lepuapua and Fagamalo who were most affected,” it says.

According to ASPA, an underground power line that supplies up to 80% of the power needs for customers in the western half of Tutuila, “suffered multiple faults and tripped out at 1:15 AM on Sunday morning.”

This underground circuit is commonly referred to as the Tie Line because it ties or connects the Tafuna and Satala power plants, the report explained.

“The outage occurred at a particularly bad time for ASPA, when generation capacity is at its lowest due to ongoing switchgear and generator replacement work at the Tafuna Plant,” said the statement-report, adding that the” loss of the Tie Line and the lack of generation capacity at the Tafuna Plant was the main reason for the extended outage.”

It explained that there weren't enough generators available at the Tafuna plant to supply all customers in the western half of Tutuila after the loss of the Tie Line. Additionally, obsolete generator sets had been removed to make way for the new units.

ASPA is installing three new Cummins gen-sets rated at 3.0 MW each and two Caterpillar units rated at 1.5 MW each, according to the report, which notes that commissioning will take place next month.

“ASPA crews worked non stop to locate and replace up to six failed or defective joints in the underground cable by 3 AM [yesterday morning],” it says. And that the Tie-line was returned to service at 4:AM yesterday morning.

Samoa News notes that ASPA had provided brief updates on its Facebook page regarding the power outage and the work done to restore it. But some residents complained that there is no use of Facebook updates when there is no electricity, to connect to the internet.

However, Samoa News was informed that some residents were able to post messages or view the updates, using their own personal cell phone for a WiFi hotspot.