Stray bullet ‘culprit’ behind Bario blackout

The cable damaged by a stray bullet.

KUCHING, Dec 11: The recent electricity supply interruption that affected the remote highland community of Bario was not solar battery- or fuel-related as originally thought.

Sarawak Energy Berhad found that it was due to an external fault, and the cause is something unexpected — a stray bullet!

The bullet had damaged an aerial cable about 7km away from the Bario Central solar hybrid power station.


This was discovered when technical teams deployed from Miri surveyed the line route and discovered the damaged cable after ascertaining that the fault was external and not within the power station.

“The fault had caused initial tripping of the solar power system. In the switchover, the standby diesel generators were unable to run continuously as the main switch at the power plant continued to trip before the damaged cable was located and isolated,” Sarawak Energy said in a statement today.

The state’s power utility, thus, appealed for cooperation from rural communities to ensure that electrical assets are protected for continued reliable supply. This is even more crucial as efforts are now focussed on accelerating rural electrification projects to deliver the state government’s ambition to achieve full electrification for the rakyat.

Commissioned in 2015, the Bario Central Solar Hybrid power plant was built as part of the federal government’s National Key Results Area under the Ministry of Regional and Rural Development. Following completion, the system was handed over to Sarawak Energy, who now operates the plant.

The power plant is designed for a load capacity of 750KW from solar power while current demand in Bario is currently 60KW, leaving ample excess capacity to meet demand growth.

The solar batteries are continuously monitored for the impact of ageing during their 5-year lifespan. Backup diesel stock is maintained at about 40,000 litres or three full tanks to ensure there is sufficient stock to meet Bario’s demand for a period of three months.

Following this incident, Sarawak Energy is also ensuring power plant operators at remote power stations are trained for tier one troubleshooting for speedy fault identification and rectification concerning distribution line faults to reduce reliance on technical teams from Miri.

It is also establishing a ‘Go To’ team of experts that can be quickly deployed to handle issues such as this in the Central and Northern regions, where most remote power stations are located.

In addition, Sarawak Energy is also looking into reinforcing the protection system of the power plant in Bario so that incidents such as this will not affect the whole power system. — DayakDaily