BERLIN – A malfunctioning piece of equipment is responsible for a series of brief power outages that struck Berlin this week.
The device is called a “DPU” and Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence compared it to a mainframe computer in regards to the duties it performed for the electric department, the most important of which being to shut down systems to prevent damage to the generator in certain situations.
With it malfunctioning, however, the power was shut off several times because of false alarms.
“It’s sensing faulty indications that are not actually there,” said Lawrence.
According to Lawrence, the problems began Monday morning when the DPU began reporting under voltage conditions and false targets. Power was lost briefly around 4 a.m. but was soon restored. There were no further complications until about 6:30 p.m., when the DPU reacted to another false alarm and power was again lost. Two members of Lawrence’s staff stayed overnight to monitor the DPU.
When power was lost for a third time Tuesday morning, the DPU was bypassed and a relay engineer was contacted to examine the device.
“It’s not a good situation to be in,” said Lawrence, referring to the fact that with the DPU currently bypassed, any real problems that might send dangerous feedback to the generator could get through.
However, Lawrence asserted that the bypass was the only option at the moment, as leaving the DPU operational would mean several more outages from false alarms.
After being examined by a relay engineer, it was confirmed that the DPU was permanently affected and would need to be replaced, according to Lawrence.
“It’s one of those technical things,” said Lawrence. “Something is just going on internally.”
Until the town can replace the DPU, the electric department will continue to use the old one, which Lawrence said is still sending shutoff signals to the breakers. However, because of the bypass, those signals are not traveling out of the DPU and power remains on.
Though Lawrence was worried about the fact that the DPU won’t be able to protect the generator in the event of a real voltage trouble situation, he was confident that the bypass his staff performed would prevent future blackouts.
“There’s always one way to get around something,” he said.