Power transmission problems speed up time in B.C.

In the 2007 movie Next, Nicolas Cage plays a man who can see several minutes into the future.

VANCOUVER — In the 2007 movie Next, Nicolas Cage plays a man who can see several minutes into the future.

For Cage, it was a way to help stop a terrorist bomb plot. But for thousands of B.C. residents who’ve inched ahead in time, it’s just made it harder to figure out when to have lunch.

From Gold Bridge in the southwest B.C. Interior to Prince Rupert on the northern coast, electric clocks have been gaining time for weeks due to power fluctuations as BC Hydro works on the grid.

Hydro had to modify electricity delivery west of Lillooet after a forest fire damaged power lines last month, forcing it to step down power delivery from a nearby reservoir to the area’s 450 residents.

Meanwhile, an upgrade to the northern transmission system has meant taking a power line out of service and temporarily drawing power from RioTinto Alcan’s Kemano generator. In both cases, that’s meant the power supply’s cyclic frequency is slightly faster than the North American standard of 60 hertz, says Hydro spokesman Dag Sharman.

“The fact that it’s at 60.3 hertz means that people may notice that their clocks run fast by about 18 seconds every hour,” says Sharman.

It essentially means the frequency should be 60 cycles per second, instead it’s .3 cycles faster each second.

Residents shouldn’t notice the faster frequency fouling up any other machinery, he says.

About 65,000 northern residents are affected by Hydro’s system upgrade, including the communities of Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Hazelton and Smithers.

People seem to be taking their personal time warp in stride. “We’re a pretty adaptable bunch,” says Heather Gallagher, executive director of the Smithers Chamber of Commerce.

It has, however, tripped up a local custom in the forestry town of 5,300.

“The only thing that we’ve noticed is that at noon every day the fire hall always rings the fire alarm bell just to let everyone know it’s lunchtime” says Gallagher.

“It’s just a tradition in our town that they’ve done for years. That’s been running a little haphazard because it comes on sometimes at 10 to (noon).”

Sharman says the cyclic shift should not affect computer clocks, which run on independent battery power.

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