POINT TUPPER: To ensure continued safety and reliable operations at one of its generating stations, Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI) is now entering into the final stages of a 10-week maintenance outage in Point Tupper for the refurbishing of the plant’s generator and turbine.
Large maintenance outages, like the one currently taking place om Point Tupper, are conducted at NSPI’s coal plants every seven to nine years, with the balance of the work including routine inspection, repairs, and upgrades to plant equipment.
“Larger maintenance outages – where we cease normal plant operations to do maintenance work – usually begin in the spring, because through the winter we need to keep our large generation units online and ready to serve customer demand,” Steve Kyle, plant manager of Point Tupper’s power generating station told The Reporter last week.
While major in scope, Kyle indicates the type of work being done to the turbine and generator is actually just routine, and the decision on when to do the major inspection was based on original equipment manufacturer recommendations, results from previous inspections and internal monitoring of asset health.
“Our objective is to ensure safe and reliable operation of our plant for our customers, while minimizing the cost of doing so,” he explained. “Making prudent investments in our coal plants [are] a key part of Nova Scotia Power’s strategy to ensure reliable, affordable electricity for Nova Scotians as we continue our transition to lower carbon generation.”
Because renewable electricity is largely weather dependant – needing the sun for solar power and rain or snow melt for hydroelectricity – the amount of renewable electricity being generated varies from day-to-day, and sometimes hour-to-hour.
“Our coal plants play a vital role in providing base-load generation and filling in the gaps when renewable generation is low,” Kyle said. “The benefit of having so many options in our generation fleet is that we can have a plant or two down for maintenance, while still ensuring we can supply all of Nova Scotia’s electricity needs.”
The Point Tupper plant has one generating unit with a capacity of 154 megawatts, while NSPI has a diverse generation fleet, including coal, natural gas, hydro, wind and biomass generations with an overall capacity of more than 2,400 megawatts.
To begin the work, Point Tupper stopped generating electricity on April 4, which is scheduled to continue through to mid-June. The $14.5 million refurbishment project has brought in an additional 140 workers, including NSPI labour pool workers and various contractors, to the already 57 full-time employees in Point Tupper.
“Safety is our top priority in everything we do,” Kyle insured. “Everybody on this project has been focused on safety, and we’re proud to say there have been no lost-time or medical aid incidents. Plus, the team has been doing a great job keeping the work progression on schedule.”
Beginning operations in 1973, the Point Tupper plant originally ran on imported oil and was converted in 1987 to use coal that was mined locally at the time. The generating unit undergoing maintenance is actually the second unit at the plant, installed in 1976.
The old Unit #1 was decommissioned in the mid-1980s and the smoke stack associated with that unit will be demolished later this summer.