Costa Rican ICE takes measures to protect national grid from outages

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26.07.2017, 11:47

Costa Rican energy firm Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) is taking measures to protect the national electric system from being affected again by a failure in the regional interconnected system, like the one that caused a recent nationwide blackout.

On July 1, 2017, an overload in the Central American Transmission System in Panama caused severe power outage in Costa Rica. It also partially affected power in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. The Central American countries are interconnected by an electricity transmission line of 1,820 km, which extends from Panama to Guatemala.

Each country has its own security mechanism that automatically disconnects from the regional system in case of an incident or imbalance at any point on the transmission line. Costa Rica’s protection system, however, was not able to address the problem, causing some 1.4 million homes and businesses to be left without power for five hours. As per ICE, power failure in a transmission line in Panama caused a strong imbalance of 500 MW at power plants, which caused a failure in Costa Rica’s surge protection system.

According to ICE, a special security system has now been activated. This will protect the three interconnection lines of Costa Rica with Panama and will activate when the power flow from Panama exceeds 100 MW or if the frequency of transmission exceeds 61 Hz or of distribution networks exceeds 60 Hz.

If any of these conditions occurs, the protection will disconnect the Costa Rican system from the Panama link and the regional system, and will thus prevent any outage in Costa Rica.

However, this measure is temporary and the regional operating body is working on defining another protection option for the regional electric grid.

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