Grid Operator: Other Lines Failed Before FirstEnergy's

Relay Devices May Not Have Been Calibrated Correct

CLEVELAND - The blame for last week's blackout might be shifting.

NewsChannel5's Ted Hart reported that, according to the Midwest grid operator, other high-voltage lines failed before FirstEnergy's.

FirstEnergy has said all along that there were unusual electrical conditions on other lines prior to its lines tripping.

A NewsChannel5 special investigation into the power failure set to air this weekend revealed tens of thousands of relay devices called "silent sentinels" may not have been calibrated correctly.
"These silent sentinels that we talked about -- they're relays," said Thomas Kraynak, of the East Central Area Reliability Council. "They open in one-thousands of a second -- very, very fast times frames. And once a cascading event starts, you better have set your relays properly and thought out what you're going to do ahead of time, because there's no human being who can stop it."
Meanwhile, the Perry Nuclear Power Plant started producing electricity once again early Friday morning. That, together with reduced demand because of Friday's lower temperatures, allowed FirstEnergy to withdraw its call for conservation.

But the company's problems are far from over. Financial statements show dwindling cash on hand and reduced cash flow.

The company points to its problems at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant. What has turned out to be an extended outage apparently has cost the company $25 million to $30 million per month.

Even before last week's blackout, the company suffered a few summer setbacks. They included blackouts along the coast of New Jersey over the July 4 weekend, a court ruling that the company was in violation of the Clean Air Act, and an auditing requirement forcing the company to report lower earnings.

In addition, the company is under pressure to reduce debt. Even though the jury is still out on FirstEnergy's role in the blackout, the event will make it that much harder for the company to recover.

Investigators continue to say it is too early to know what caused the blackout and that it is unfair to speculate. They say it could be months before the cause is known.

NewsChannel5 will air a special 30-minute investigation on the power crisis at 6:30 p.m. Saturday called "What Went Wrong."

The show will explore what happened and when, as well as how well northeast Ohio responded. It will also provide new information on what may have caused the outage.

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