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A BC Hydro power switch caused northwestern B.C. clocks to run faster

BC Hydro was using Rio Tinto power

It happens every time BC Hydro takes its northwestern customers off of its provincial grid so it can do maintenance or make repairs.

The provincial crown corporation then shifts to power produced by Rio Tinto’s Kemano generators which provide the juice to run the company’s Kitimat aluminum smelter.

But because Rio Tinto’s power has a faster hertz, or cycle rate, than does BC Hydro’s power, clocks using electricity also run faster.

BC Hydro calculations place its own power at 60 hertz and Rio Tinto’s at 60.3 hertz, fast enough to add 12 seconds an hour to a clock being run on electricity, a factor called “time error”, said David Mosure from BC Hydro.

“In other words if the system is running fast for 10 hours, clock time will be 120 seconds faster than real time,” he said.

In this most recent power switch of two weeks ago, electric clock users found them running approximately 15 minutes faster.

The switch affected BC Hydro’s northwestern customers as far east as Burns Lake with the crown corporation using Rio Tinto power as well as power from other independent power producers.

When BC Hydro isolates a region for maintenance or repairs, it’s then called an electrical island.

Power was back to normal over the weekend of Aug. 20-Aug. 21.

Clock applications in computers, smartphones or other devices tied into the internet are not affected as they take their times from the internet through satellite-based calculations.

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