CUC: WB transmission system caused islandwide outage

The lone electricity provider in Grand Cayman said Thursday that a fault in the transmission system in the Hydesville Substation in West Bay was to blame for an islandwide power outage that crippled businesses and inconvenienced residents for several hours on Wednesday. 

The outage struck about 6.30am on Wednesday and continued well into the afternoon for most customers, as a total system failure knocked out service from East End to West Bay and everywhere in between on the largest of the three of the Cayman Islands. 

On Thursday, Andrew Small, vice president of transmission for Caribbean Utilities Company, said the problem at the substation in West Bay triggered several of the utility company’s generating units to shut down, resulting in power failures across the island, but apparently causing no lasting damage to the system’s infrastructure.  

Mr. Small said that as CUC continues to restore to normal operations a system that provides electricity to more than 26,000 commercial and residential customers in Grand Cayman, some customers may experience service interruptions during the next 48 hours. He said all customers had power restored by 8.30pm on Wednesday. 

“Islandwide outages such as what was experienced [Wednesday] occur from time to time on small island power systems such as in Grand Cayman,” Mr. Small said. “As a result of the restoration to date there appears to be no major equipment damage from the outage which will impact customer reliability.” 

Vital services throughout Grand Cayman, including hospitals and air transportation, were said to be working relatively smoothly on backup generators while the utility company scrambled to restore service to the overall power grid on midweek business day in the height of the summer heat. But for many businesses, namely those without adequate alternative power sources, the morning and early afternoon hours were lost as companies told employees to stay home and their doors remained closed.  

Police officers directed traffic by hand during the early morning rush hour commute shortly after thousands of residents had awaken to find their homes without power. Some reported to work to find their offices closed, while other companies decided to follow suit and close themselves shortly thereafter. By late Wednesday morning, CUC had restored power to portions of the capital city of George Town and the more densely populated areas in the western part of the island, as well as in sections of Bodden Town and North Side. However, other areas of downtown remained without electricity for longer periods, as did customers in other districts islandwide,  

Most customers had power restored by late afternoon, though there were reports of service going in and out throughout the day across Grand Cayman, including in West Bay, where CUC said the problem occurred.  

Post offices throughout Grand Cayman remained closed four hours, while the Department of Immigration was open, but operating at limited capacity. Other government sectors, including the court house in George Town, were without electricity for much of the day, with some closing early and others opting to open up in the afternoon after power 
was restored. 

West Bay CUC

CUC workers at the West Bay substation Wednesday morning. Photo: Jeff Brammer