Power outages drop by two thirds

Yukoners suffered fewer power outages last year as Yukon Energy Corporation boosted repairs on its weakened infrastructure.

Yukoners suffered fewer power outages last year as Yukon Energy Corporation boosted repairs on its weakened infrastructure.

The Whitehorse-Faro-Aishihik grid went dark six times in 2009, compared to 19 outages in 2008.

And there were only two controllable outages on the Mayo-Dawson line, compared with six the previous year.

That’s approximately a 66 per cent drop in power outages in one year.

Yukon Energy is crediting the improved reliability on its beefed-up maintenance schedule.

Two-thirds of Yukon Energy’s core capital budget went to maintaining equipment in 2009, said Yukon Energy spokesperson Janet Patterson in an e-mail.

Most of the money went to the Whitehorse hydro dam’s third and fourth generators, which caused massive outages two years ago.

Outages peaked in 2008, with blackout’s cascading across the entire southern grid. During Thanksgiving weekend that year, outages struck on the Friday, Sunday and Monday.

After such a dismal year, Yukon Energy decided to speed up its repairs. And the plan appears to be working.

“This was not just a one-year initiative,” said Patterson. “We have committed to devoting that same level of funding to reliability projects in each of the next five years.”

Yukon Energy’s board of directors recently approved a proposal to hire five more trades people to make up for the busy workload.

The next bundle of projects includes repairs to the Aishihik sub-station, and fixing the hydraulic equipment that feeds water into Whitehorse’s generator four.

Last February, a ceramic bushing on the substation caused a grid-wide outage just two weeks after an Aishihik generator shut down power across the grid.

Another problem Yukon Energy plans to tackle is its blackout protection system.

Currently, outages in an isolated part of the grid have a disproportionate effect on the rest of the grid. Yukon Energy has been planning on modernizing the computers that are supposed to prevent a “cascading effect”

on the grid. Those computers disconnect a blacked out area before it sparks a short on a larger section of the grid.

The computers get updated every few years as new customers come online and new stresses appear on the grid.

There were also fewer uncontrollable outages on both grids last year. These are blackouts caused by lightning, heavy snow, ice, winds or animals.

In 2009, there were 21 such outages on the Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro grid and 23 the year previous.

The Mayo-Dawson grid went down 31 times in 2008 due to uncontrollable factors and only 18 times in 2009.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

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