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BC Hydro work slows clocks in Tofino and Ucluelet

West Coast clocks are back on their usual 60-second-per-minute pace after a slow start last week
Clocks in Tofino and Ucluelet got off to a slow start last week as BC Hydro crews worked to repair a transmission line connecting the West Coast to the rest of the Vancouver Island power grid. (Andrew Bailey photo)

West Coast clocks are back on their usual 60-second-per-minute pace after a slow start last week.

Time literally slowed down across Tofino and Ucluelet on Oct. 18 and Oct 19 with residents noticing their clocks were running several minutes behind the actual time.

BC Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers told the Westerly News the sluggish clocks were due to repairs being done on the transmission line that connects the West Coast to the rest of hydro’s power grid.

To safely complete that work, the line was de-energized and Hydro switched the West Coast power supply over to its Ash Generating Station, a method known as ‘islanding.’

“The normal BC Hydro grid is very stable and operates at a frequency of 60 hertz. When an area is islanded, it operates with minor variations, it could be just under that 60 hertz or just over that 60 hertz,” Louwers said.

She added switching to Ash does not damage electronics, but does cause clocks to run slower or faster depending on what side of 60 hertz the facility’s power is running at.

“When we island an area, customers can expect to see some minor inaccuracies in clocks that are plugged into electrical power outlets and, based on how that system’s operating, they could either lose or gain, we would expect, about five minutes a day until that system is reconnected back to the larger grid,” Louwers said. “Although we do expect to see minor variation, it’s hard for us to predict what that variation will actually be…We don’t always know if it’s going to operate at a lower frequency or a higher frequency. Sometimes those minutes balance out at the end of the day where they could be quite unnoticeable, but not this time.”

She noted incidents like last week’s are rare as this is just the third time clocks have slowed on the West Coast since 2015.

“As I think most people on the West Coast might remember, it does happen periodically from time to time and it’s one of the ways that we can keep the power on, whether it be during an unplanned outage like a storm or by planning ahead to let us do some work,” she said. “I regret that BC Hydro didn’t inform the community prior to this work taking place so that they weren’t surprised by those changes in their clocks…We’ll do our best to notify the community for future works in advance so that they can be aware.”

She said the maintenance work was successful and the West Coast is back on the grid.

“Customers will have to take the time to reset those clocks that are plugged into the wall and we appreciate them taking the time and their patience to do that,” she said.

She explained that Ash is a 28 megawatt facility near Port Alberni that contributes roughly 6 per cent of Vancouver Island’s hydroelectric generation.

“It is a terrific resource for us to have to be able to provide that backup for the West Coast communities when we’re completing work on the transmission system,” she said.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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