Frequently Asked Questions About New Orleans Power Station
Did New Orleans Power Station work during Hurricane Ida?
NOPS operated as expected and did exactly what it was designed to do both during and following Hurricane Ida.
Hurricane Ida, the fifth strongest hurricane ever to hit the United States, devastated the local electric grid, which is called a distribution system, and damaged portions of the surrounding transmission system, which carries electricity over longer distances. When a storm causes widespread damage to the grid, all power plants are designed to shut down automatically. Power plants that continue operating when there are no lines connecting to customers risk being damaged or destroyed if they do not shut down. New Orleans Power Station shut down as designed when Ida struck the region.
When did NOPS restart following the hurricane?
Within 48 hours after Hurricane Ida left the region, NOPS had been restarted and connected to the local electric grid.
Why didn’t NOPS start up immediately after the hurricane ended?
NOPS was able to start up and begin generating power nearly immediately after the hurricane left the region. However, engineers need to ensure that there is a connection between the power plant and customers via local power lines. Following Ida, there was devastation to electric distribution facilities. For example, the number of poles damaged or destroyed from Ida is more than from Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Delta and Zeta combined.
If damage to the grid is too great, NOPS could have been damaged or destroyed if it was started up prematurely.
What does “blackstart” mean? Can NOPS use blackstart, and would that have gotten electricity flowing sooner?
While NOPS is capable of blackstart operation, meaning to come online with no grid power to support it, it was not required to play that role following the storm. A transmission line from Slidell was largely undamaged and thus available to be used in combination with power generated by NOPS to restore first lights to New Orleans less than 48 hours after Ida left the region.
It is more reliable and safer to operate a power plant in conjunction with a transmission line in service, rather than in an “island” configuration. There was no difference in time between using blackstart and operating in island mode versus waiting for the line from Slidell to be reconnected. Rather, the reason it took 48 hours to bring NOPS back online is because we had to ensure that the distribution lines connecting NOPS to customers were secured and that customers could take power safely. Starting NOPS without ensuring the ability to deliver its power would have been unsafe and could have damaged or destroyed the plant.
If that transmission line from Slidell had been destroyed in the storm, NOPS would have enabled the New Orleans area to be restored -- in an island configuration – during the time required to repair or replace the transmission line.
Who received power first from NOPS after it was restarted following the hurricane?
NOPS is located in the New Orleans East area of the city. Within 48 hours after Hurricane Ida left the region, NOPS was generating electricity for customers in certain New Orleans East neighborhoods, as well as some critical facilities like hospitals and first responder facilities.
Can NOPS supply enough electricity for the entire city?
No. NOPS can generate a maximum of 128 megawatts of electricity, enough to power approximately 80,000 residences, give or take depending upon actual usage, in the city. It was never intended to power the entire city, although the original plan called for NOPS to generate over 200 megawatts.
The city and surrounding areas, such as Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, St. John, St. James and other parishes, have a diverse array of power supplies, including electricity generated by the use of natural gas, nuclear and solar power, and some electricity is delivered to the region over many miles by high voltage transmission lines.