2011년 뉴질랜드 크라이스트처치의 대지진 이후 그 피해를 복구하기 위해 GE가 어떤 역할을 했는지는 잘 알려져 있지 않다. 강도 6.3의 대지진이 발생했을때, 1천 명이 넘는 사람들이 투입돼 붕괴 위험 건물의 전력을 차단하고 발전기를 설치했으며, 송전선과 전력 케이블 보수 작업을 진행했다. 뉴질랜드의 전력 공급 업체인 오리온(Orion)의 직원들은 GE의 산업 인터넷 솔루션 파워온(PowerOn) 시스템을 통해 전력 공급 상황을 파악하고 복구 계획을 세웠다. 파워온 프로그램을 통해 전력 공급 상황을 모니터링하며 전력 공급을 재개할 건물과 전력을 차단할 건물을 구분하는 작업부터 진행했고, 부상자가 수용된 병원과 도심 상업 지구의 이동전화망에 먼저 전력 공급을 재개하고, 붕괴될 위험이 있는 건물에는 공급을 차단했다.
Stuart Kilduff was attending an emergency services conference in Wellington, New Zealand, when he got a call that Christchurch, his hometown some 270 miles (440 kilometers) away, had been hit by a massive earthquake. “The place was full of emergency services people, civil defense, army, you name it,” he says as he recalls that early afternoon on February 22, 2011. “They all went running for the door.”
After checking that his family and colleagues were safe, Kilduff, who works as operations manager for energy provider Orion New Zealand, made his way to the airport, and boarded an air ambulance bound for the stricken city. “One of my control managers has been in the game for years and normally nothing rattles him,” Kilduff recalls. “You could tell from his voice that he was quite shook up by the way the building reacted. It nearly collapsed so they were pretty lucky.”
When he landed, Kilduff went straight into Orion’s operation center and spent the first night trying to figure out the extent of the damage to the power network.
The team was using a digital outage management system from GE to survey the network and start planning recovery. They used the system, called PowerOn, to restore electricity to sites like hospitals, where more than 6,600 people were being treated for injuries, and move quickly to disconnect dangerously damaged buildings. “Two or three of us spent the night in the control room working our way through what was available and what wasn’t,” Kilduff says.
The Orion electricity network supplies electricity into 193,000 homes and businesses. It covers more than 3,000 square miles (8,000 square kilometers).
The earthquake landed the city a severe blow. West Christchurch was mostly still online, but the center and the east of the city was in the dark. “At that stage even the control room was running off a generator,” Kilduff recalls.
The PowerOn system gave Kilduff and his team a single view of the city’s network in real time. It allowed them to monitor and control the distribution of electricity through the Christchurch network and track repair crews as they restored power across the city.
Kilduff says that at the height of the response there were 1,000 contractors surveying and disconnecting the damaged buildings, installing generators, repairing damaged overhead connections and cable faults.
They also salvaged a key communications site in the city’s central business district that would have taken down mobile communications had it lost power. For weeks this tower was powered by generators, as the surrounding substations remained too dangerous to enter due to damage and aftershocks.
Tragically, 185 people lost their lives in the disaster. Many on Kilduff’s team were personally affected, but they worked around the clock to get lights, stoves and heaters back on across the city.
Kilduff says Orion is now in the process of building a second data center and a new emergency operations center, and adding staff trained for emergencies. If another earthquake were to hit Christchurch, the Orion network will be more resilient.
But Kilduff hopes he’ll never again have to call them into action. “With a bit of luck it won’t happen again in my lifetime,” he says.