After 2 1/2 days of outages in Ferndale, city officials as well as residents were looking for answers from DTE Energy on what happened.
"We want to answer two questions," Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said. "Number one of which is: What the heck happened? We're not electrical engineers up here. Second, what can we do to prevent the chances that it will happen again?"
and, for some, didn't .
DTE Energy sent Regional Manager Michael Palchesko and Senior Engineer Carl MacNeil to explain what happened and answer questions from residents and city council.
DTE blames high heat and high energy load
Palchesko reported that at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday one of the two transformers at the substation at West Nine Mile Road and Dover, which serves central and south central Ferndale, "experienced trouble and kicked off," resulting in the initial outage. By late Wednesday, Ferndale had nearly 5,000 outages.
Palchesko said the "trouble" with the transformer was due to the "high heat and high energy load." . A heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Detroit predicted it would be the longest bout of consecutive heat above 90 degrees in 15 years.
When the transformer went off line, DTE attempted to transfer the energy load to the other transformer at the substation. "At 10:25 p.m. (Thursday), the entire substation shutdown," Palchesko said. At that point, .
Palchesko said a cable had blown, which MacNeil later pointed out in the meeting, was more than 40 years old and had never malfunctioned.
On Friday, DTE brought in two generators to restore power to most of Ferndale. It became clear, however, that the generators weren't enough and .
City officials, Ferndale police and fire chiefs, and DTE consulted and decided that Saturday at 2:30 a.m. the power would shut off to fix the cable, which was in Royal Oak.
As of 6 a.m., Saturday, the circuits were up and shortly after, power was fully restored to Ferndale.
"In the early hours of that morning, we were able to bring customers back up again," Palchesko said. "We then asked residents and business people to manage their load."
. DTE claimed it was storm damage, however residents in the area were adamant that a storm was not the factor, but faulty wiring.
Council asks questions
After DTE explained the issue, which didn't contain any new information from what was reported during the outage, council began asking questions.
It began with the age of the system and how it was maintained.
Palchesko said that maintenance of the substation is routine and that engineers are constantly checking. When asked by council how often, MacNeil answered: "Official checks are done every time an operator is at the substation," he said.
Asked specifically by Coulter how old the transformers were in the substation, MacNeil answered with the lifespan of the transformers, about 30 to 40 years. Again, Coulter asked specifically about age.
"I'm not sure," MacNeil said.
DTE was asked if the transformers in the substation were replaced when they caught fire in 2006. MacNeil again answered that he was unsure.
Councilman Scott Galloway asked about the protocol for equipment that fails. "For incidents like this, do you upgrade ... or replace the equipment that failed with new equipment?" Galloway asked.
"When the opportunity presents itself, we do make the effort to upgrade," Palchesko said.
Galloway said it seemed that issues of fallen wires, transformer explosions and brownouts and blackouts were more common this year than in past years.
"I've lived around here my whole life and never recalled so many transformers and wires down, melting wires," he said. "Is that my perception or is 2011 an especially a tough year for DTE?"
No answer was given.
DTE plans to put together a written analysis that Council will make available to the public. Palchesko, however, wasn't sure when the analysis will be completed.
"I'm waiting for more information," Coulter said after the meeting. "I expect that in the analysis of the outage. The information tonight, I was hoping for more."
Read what the community had to say to DTE during Monday's Meeting here.