By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 5, 2015
Port Isabel residents have raised concerns about a rash of outages between their city and surrounding cities, namely South Padre Island and Laguna Vista.
Frank Espinoza, AEP community affairs manager for the Mid and Lower Valley presented a special report to Port Isabel City Hall of all the outages that have occurred within the three neighboring cities. The following information is based on that report, which covers a 3-year span and are averages based on all the customers in each city. The report generally disproved concerns voiced by residents.
Electric utilities like AEP Texas are measured by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on two factors: system average interruption frequency index (SAIFI) measuring the number of times customers outages, and system average interruption duration index (SAIDI) which measures how long customers are without power.
In 2012, the SAIFI average for Port Isabel was 1.02, which means that on average every customer experienced one outage that year with a SAIDI average of 134.7 minutes. That same year, Laguna Vista experienced a SAIDI average of 1.41 and 1.35 in South Padre Island with SAIFI averages of 201.5 and 126.1 minutes, respectively.
In 2013 a severe drought made it a challenging period for the Laguna Madre area, particularly for Port Isabel. The city’s SAIFI average was an alarming 3.73 with a duration of 289.8 minutes. Laguna Vista averaged a SAIFI 1.65 and a SAIDI of 152.9 minutes. SPI experienced an even 1.0 SAIFI and a 121.0 minute SAIDI.
“While it is true that in 2013 was a higher number of outages in this area [Port Isabel], we attributed that to the drought we were experiencing and strong, gusty winds at a certain time of the year,” said Espinoza. “Last year, however, Port Isabel faired the best,” he said.
Because the region’s proximity to the coast, there is what’s known as a prevailing wind. It regularly brings with it coastal contamination that can make it difficult to maintain power. As a result, 2013 saw a high number of pole fires, one of the factors as to why all three cities were up in both electric indexes.
In 2014, Port Isabel went from highest to lowest in both indexes, with a 1.81 SAIFI, compared to Laguna Vista’s 3.1 and SPI’s 1.93; the duration index was 205 minutes, 583 minutes and 225 minutes, respectively.
“We try to be as proactive as we possibly can to eliminate potential outages,” Espinoza went on to say. “We want to keep to power lines flowing, but the reality is that certain elements sometimes prevent that,” he said.
Some suggest burying the lines to prevent wear. This would allow for the removal of the utility poles, which are seen by some as an eyesore. The task is an extremely costly proposition, however, and any kind of electrical issues would not be visible, causing delays when digging up the lines to resolve the problem.
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