Hadeda bombs city power

2011-06-08 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality will need close to R800 million to upgrade its ageing electricity infrastructure as the current substations, which were built about 40 years ago, have not been maintained properly.

This was disclosed yesterday by the electricity manager, Maxwell Mthembu, after the press briefing held at the city hall.

Mthembu said he was on his way to the office of the administrator, Sibusiso Sithole, to hand over a document that was drafted in 2007 and forwarded to the executive committee (Exco) which approved a resolution to upgrade the city’s substations, but never allocated any funds to start the actual work, which was going to be rolled out over a period of five years.

He said the then council had to budget around R500 million for this project, however, now with escalating costs the municipality would need about R800 million to upgrade the city’s substations.

In the briefing, it was also confirmed that the power outages that were experienced yesterday in various parts of the city were caused by a hadeda bird, according to Mthembu.

He said there are two lines that run up Hesketh Drive and the hadeda sat on one of the lines with its foot on the pylon and it was shocked.

“The one line that the hadeda sat on shocked through it tripping not only the 133 KV in Hesketh Drive but also affected the 132 KV at the Riverside substation,” Mthembu said.

Mthembu said this damaged a R300 000 breaker and left the Willowton industrial area, Lincoln Meade, Scottsville, Woodburn, Hayfields, Eastwood, Mountain Rise, parts of town and Pelham without electricity for most of the day.

The Witness was alerted to the hadeda being the cause of the power outages by a resident, Dave Moon.

Moon said he saw the hadeda sitting on the electricity line, then there was a huge explosion and then the power went out.

“This year I have seen about five of these birds exploding, however, today’s explosion was the biggest I have experienced,” Moon said.

Mthembu said the birds in this area are a challenge and they have tried putting bird repellers in place, but the birds find a way back all the time.

“We are also affected by the indigenous trees because they fall on the cables causing outages, but we cannot do anything because the environmentalists would be on our case if we cut them down,” said Mthembu.

He said all these factors affect their ability to supply electricity, but we cannot fix the problem because either way we will look like the bad guys.

Mthembu said that there was good news for the Hilton residents whose electricity has been regularly cut.

“We have bought five breakers for Hilton and they will take four to six months to arrive,” he said.

Msunduzi spokesperson, Brain Zuma said, “I have been flooded with calls all morning about the number of areas without electricity.”

“Our call centre at the moment does not have the capacity to handle all the callers, however, we are preparing a new one which will be running as from 1 July,” he said.

Concerning the power outage in Scottsville on Monday evening for 10 minutes, Mthembu said that it was planned because they had to do maintenance work which only took 10 minutes.

There is no load shedding planned this winter, even in Hilton.

“If things are bad with electricity this winter, a planned load shedding will be put in place. Areas and people will be informed when they will be experiencing load shedding via the media,” Mthembu said.

An engineer who did not want to be named said there are problems that occur when you have high tech machinery which are reliant on stable supply.

“Various electronic devices can be damaged as a result of power surges,” he said.

The businesses in the Willowton industrial area were affected in terms of production, but most of the people who spoke to The Witness declined to be named.

Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, said they had not been flooded with calls from their members because the outages did not last for a long time, however those who phoned basically wanted to know what the problem was with the electricity.

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