In emergency diesel generators could keep lights on in Hannibal

Hannibal is approaching the day when the loss of the major power lines which feed the city wouldn’t necessarily cast the community into darkness for an extended period of time. The diesel generators that the Board of Public Works (HBPW) purchased in 2016 recently successfully passed a startup test.

The news represents a positive step forward for the diesel generator project, which was described as “grinding along” by Bob Stevenson, general manager of the HBPW, during the August meeting of the HBPW Board.

“We went through a startup exercise of the eight units at the (Oakwood) substation,” Stevenson advised during the Aug. 15 meeting. “We had mixed results.”

According to Mathew Munzlinger, utility planning and construction engineer for the HBPW, “there were some minor issues that prevented all the generators from being started, such as an emergency stop not resetting.”

Stevenson added that technicians from Altorfer Caterpillar, from whom the HBPW purchased the used containerized generators late last year, were going to “make some very minor repairs to just about every unit down there.”

Following the technicians’ work Stevenson said another startup test would be scheduled “pretty quick.”

The latest test occurred in late August, according to Munzlinger.

“As the issues have been resolved by Altorfer, they have been starting and running the engines that were not originally able to be started,” he said, adding that as of Aug. 28 “all engines have been started.”

How close are the generators to being able to provide electricity to Hannibal in an emergency?

“Dependent upon the nature of the emergency, it would be conceivable that eight of the 10 generators could be placed into service with little to no additional work being completed provided Ameren’s approval was received first,” said Munzlinger.

According to an interconnection study conducted by Ameren, the protective relays at its substation must be upgraded before the city’s diesel power could be utilized. In April, Stevenson advised that the cost of the upgrades would be around $450,000 and take from 10 to 12 months to complete. In August, Stevenson told the HBPW Board that a construction agreement with Ameren to provide protective relays in their substations had been signed with a six-month completion schedule, or “sometime in December.”

The city’s generators No. 9 and 10 are located at the Water Treatment Plant and Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“The generators have been installed, but not all of the connections have been completed,” said Munzlinger.

The diesel generators not only represent a source of power in an emergency, but they will eventually help the city meet its capacity requirements.

Capacity, among other things, represents a community’s potential energy reserves. Under its Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) obligation, the HBPW must own or control enough capacity to cover its own peak load, plus 7.5 percent, which this year amounts to about 63 megawatts.

Hannibal has needed to secure both sources of energy and capacity since June 1, 2017, when it began a self-managed energy plan.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com