In an advertisement running in the Freeport News today , the Grand Bahama Power Company advised its customers that, "...due to operating challenges that are currently being experienced at its plant, the fuel surcharge for the month of May is expected to be higher."
The news of this expected increase in electricity fees comes after three days of widespread power interruptions experienced by the residents and businesses of Grand Bahama. Outages lasting from two to four hours have caused the cessation of work and caused hardship for residents who have been unable to use electric appliances, electronics, office equipment and air conditioning. Residents are already reporting complete spoilage of food stored in their home refrigerator.
Offices that have been affected by the power cuts have reported that battery backup systems are proving to be only partially helpful, as the recurrence of the interruptions are not allowing sufficient time for the batteries to be recharged before they lose power supply again.
Residents are outraged that the power company would be considering an increase in the fuel surcharge given the inconsistent and unreliable level of service provided by the power company.
BahamaIslandsInfo.com spoke with someone familiar with the situation and it is believed that the "operating challenges" referred to in the newspaper advertisement are actually the failure of the main 40-megawatt Mitsubishi steam turbine generators. These units are functionally more efficient and cost less to operate than combustion turbines. It is believed that the failure of the Bunker C-fueled steam turbines has resulted in the need to rely on the less efficient and more costly combustion turbine generators that run on more expensive diesel fuel.
The combustion turbine units were manufactured in 1944 and originally used in Sarasota, FL. Freeport Power Company purchased the units and moved them to Freeport in the 1960s where they were reassembled for use in Grand Bahama. Our source stated that these units are not intended for constant use, but are more appropriate for short-term coverage when the main units have failed. Because the combustion turbine units have a faster start-up time, they are ideal for getting up to full speed more quickly than the turbine units, which is typically called for during failure situations.
The main steam turbine generating units were built in the 1970s, but have suffered challenges resulting in their inability to meet demand on the island. This failure will now require Grand Bahama residents to pay higher costs for the diesel fuel while the steam turbine engines are repaired.
Grand Bahama Power Company planned a press conference for late Thursday afternoon to update the public on the power interruption situation.