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Blackout blindsides power providers

Identifying the source of a power outage should be simple, says Craig Steinbeck.When a power grid is re-energized, the area where the problem…

Identifying the source of a power outage should be simple, says Craig Steinbeck.

When a power grid is re-energized, the area where the problem originated will come up without power, thereby localizing the issue, said the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. customer service manager.

“It’s like seeing that a broken toaster isn’t working (when the power goes on),” said Jay Massie, superintendent of operations at Yukon Electrical.

But nothing came up broken after the power was restored following a grid-wide power failure on Thanksgiving Monday.

The power was out in some areas for up to three hours.

“If there is a problem out there, for one, we wouldn’t have been able to re-energize,” said Massie. “We didn’t have to repair anything — everything re-energized in the end.”

Furthermore, the power grid is designed to keep power outages from spreading.

“It can’t be distribution,” said Steinbeck. “The system is designed to shut off (locally). It isn’t supposed to cascade down on the whole system.”

“A total grid collapse, generally it has something to do with generation or the transmission. For it to be on the distribution side just shouldn’t be,” said Massie.

On Friday, power outages only affected the area where power lines were located, he said.

Sunday’s power outage was due to a problem at Whitehorse’s hydro station — the grid’s main power source.

Monday’s outage remains a mystery.

Yukon Electrical distributes most of the power in the territory. It has inspected its entire system and has not identified a source for the outage.

And the Crown-owned corporation charged with running generation and transmission, Yukon Energy, has no idea what happened on Monday either.

“We’ve looked through, we’ve checked our system and we can’t find any reason why the power would have gone down,” said corporation spokesperson Janet Patterson.

“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” she said.

Both companies say they are reviewing their systems again.

A lineman working for Yukon Electrical who is familiar with Sherwood Mining’s Minto mine said the outage was due to a problem connecting and syncing the mine’s diesel generators with the main power grid.

“Whoever is giving you that information is not correct,” said Patterson.

“There is no connection with the Minto mine,” she said. There is no firm date for the planned connection, she added.

The Minto mine was schedule to be connected with the grid on November 1st, but those plans have been delayed.

This leaves everyone guessing.

“Everything quit,” said Massie. “Nothing was wrong in our system. We had no trees. And even if we had a tree, it should never shut the whole thing down.”