August 2003

Freeport News: Freeport Lights On Through Historic Blackout

(Freeport, New York August 18, 2003) - Lights were quickly restored during the largest blackout in history thanks to the Village-owned and operated electric utility and self-generating capacity at its two power plants. Using all available generating resources in the Village, the Freeport-owned electric utility was able substantially to meet the electric needs of its customers throughout the two-day crisis.

Within eight minutes of the blackout, the utility had restored partial electric service with operation of its first generating unit. Two hours and thirty-eight minutes later, Freeport Electric was generating 40 MW of electricity from all available generating units at Power Plants 1 and 2. At the time of the blackout, Freeport Electric was supplying a typical weekday summer afternoon peak of 54 MW through a combination of importing both hydroelectric power from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and other market sources, and 8 MW generated at Power Plant 1. The blackout severed all connections to imported power and interrupted service from the operating Power Plant 1.

Freeport directed the first power generated to essential public services to maintain public health and safety, including police operations, traffic control, water supply, and sewage management. Throughout the crisis, the Village Electric Department stayed in close and constant communications with the Mayor's office, the Village Police and Fire Departments, Department of Public Works and members of the Village Emergency Management Team. This effort not only ensured that critical electric resources were directed as needed to protect Village-wide public health and safety, but also to high priority customers with extraordinary health or life support equipment needs.

Following normal usage patterns, demand for electricity dropped through the evening, and by 12:30 am Friday morning, Freeport Electric was fully meeting the Village's energy demand. Beginning at approximately 8 am on Friday, as daily activities picked-up and businesses began routine operations, Freeport Electric continued to deliver essential service to its 15,000 commercial and residential customers. As the Village was capable of providing 40 MW compared to a typically summer weekday peak of 50-60 MW, users were advised to limit their electric use. Residents and businesses were requested to limit use to strictly necessary appliances such as refrigerators and lights and to disconnect items that draw a large amount of electricity including air conditioners, computers, televisions and other high use items until full power could be restored.

In order to maintain a consistent and reliable level of service until the Village could restore its interconnection with the LIPA distribution system, the utility implemented scheduled and controlled rolling blackouts. During these periods, portions of the Village would lose electric service for a one-hour period. When power was restored that area was assured of a minimum of two hours of service, though typically service continued for four-five hours. This process continued as needed into Friday night until connection with LIPA was restored at 1 am Saturday morning.

"There was an admirable level of cooperation and communication between the all the Village Departments," stated Mayor William Glacken. "This cooperation made Freeport a safe and comfortable haven in the vast sea of darkness around us. If Freeport did not have its own generating units, it would have remained dark until 1 am on Saturday when the LIPA service was restored to our area". "More so," added Mayor Glacken, "this outage highlights the critical importance of our Power Plant 2 generation project. Once the new dual fuel turbine generation project is constructed and passes environmental and acceptance testing, and the old Power Plant 2 diesels are decommissioned, Freeport will have enough generating capacity to meet this summer peak demand without support from the LIPA distribution system and out of Village sources. The need for both the Village turbine and the proposed merchant project to be co-located at Power Plant 2 to serve the LIPA region has never been clearer."

Hubert Bianco, Superintendent of Electric Utilities commended the working staff of Freeport Electric. "Immediately, our operators and line crews returned to the utility to help where needed. It is a time consuming and meticulous process to bring all the generating units on line and to reestablish electric service. These hardworking men and women worked through the night, some for as much as thirty hours to serve their community, neighbors, families and friends." After power was restored to neighborhoods, line crews continued to service individual homes experiencing service difficulties.

In addition to ensuring the comfort and safety of residential and business customers, the immediate restoration of power provided additional benefits to residents of Freeport and neighboring communities such as open gas stations with operating gas pumps and stores open and able to provide food, batteries and other supplies.
Superintendent Hubert M. Bianco