Update on power cuts in Melsonby

Meeting with PowerGrid on 11th February 2022 in Melsonby.

Peter Griffen and Cllr Judith Stansfield, Melsonby Parish Council Chair met with Mike Hammond and his colleague from PowerGrid on Friday 11th February 2022 to talk about the regular short power cuts that we have in Melsonby. It was a very interesting and instructive meeting and they have provided printed handouts to support their talk.

PowerGrid do not generate power but provide a historically complicated pattern of supply lines that feed 2000 households in our area. The controlling sub-station is near Newton Aycliffe and power is delivered to us by a mixture of overhead and underground cables, which are partly High Voltage (HV) that is converted to Low Voltage (LV) to go into our houses. Melsonby is at the end of this power line from Newton Aycliffe and any faults on this line will result in a power outage in Melsonby. The overhead parts of the network can trip out if hit by a goose, a big branch or very high winds, to protect the integrity of the network. There are automatic devices that can sometimes restart the flow, or a controller in Newton Aycliffe or Newcastle can redirect more serious outages remotely, or if there is a serious issue, send engineers out to fix it – eg the felled poles in Aldbrough during the last two storms. There are also some manual switches, e.g. on the poles near Harelands, that an engineer can manually switch to isolate a specific problem and that will let many people be reconnected relatively quickly.

In 2021 Melsonby had 18 separate interruptions, which is well above average:

Transient issues – at least 4 occasions

Overhead repairs – at least 3 occasions

Underground cable faults – at least 4 occasions

3rd Party interference – at least 2 occasions (e.g., farm machinery)

Bird strikes – at least 2 occasions

The present system is very complicated, but is being updated – the new substation on the Green in Melsonby has the latest state of the art equipment, but is still a hostage to fortune to faults on all of the links back to Newton Aycliffe.

PowerGrid are working on the problems with intermediate and long-term actions:

Intermediate Actions

  1. GM automation to be installed at the local substation within Melsonby, to improve restoration times during a HV fault
  2. Replacement of Overhead Circuit Breaker supplying Melsonby to provide better visibility when faults occur. This will let the control centre see accurate fault activity live, so they can switch on the network again without having to drive there, in some scenarios
  3. Continuing to inspect network to identify remedial actions
  4. Complete any necessary remedial works during foot patrols

And now for the GOOD news!

The long-term action includes the construction of a £1.2m reinforcement scheme (with funds approved and allocated) to install a new Primary Substation at Scotch Corner to improve local resilience – this has already started with the installation of a new powerline on the Skeeby Rd.

This will allow them to split the existing HV network to enable villages like Melsonby to be fed from the planned new primary substation.

This is obviously a lot shorter distance than from Newton Aycliffe, so we shall not be affected so much by outages to the North of us.

The funding of the new substation is related to the new Retail Park at Scotch Corner, so Powergrid can ride the cost of the improvements to us on that development. Work has already started on the road at Skeeby and it is expected the new features for us will be in place in 2023.

Judith Stansfield and Peter Griffen

Dated: 11th February 2022.

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