Power outages plague southern Yukon

Call it a problem generator. Last year, the governor on the Whitehorse dam's fourth generator had to be replaced after causing a handful of outages that blacked out the Yukon's southern grid.

Call it a problem generator.

Last year, the governor on the Whitehorse dam’s fourth generator had to be replaced after causing a handful of outages that blacked out the Yukon’s southern grid.

Now, two separate incidents on the same generator caused two power outages in less than a week.

On November 4, just after 8 a.m., a Yukon Energy crew was replacing oil filters on unit number four, said Janet Patterson, the power utility’s spokesperson.

“They had put in a new filter, but discovered it was the wrong size, so they took it out and put in the correct size,” wrote Patterson in an e-mail.

“Apparently the air hadn’t finished purging from when they installed the first filter, and it was this ‘air bubble’ that triggered a sensor and caused the outage,” she wrote.

“From now on, whenever possible, we will try to shut off the unit before we do this kind of routine maintenance.”

The automatic shutdown caused a cascading outage, cutting power around Whitehorse.

That sparked a letter to the editor from Jack Cable, a former commissioner of the Yukon and president of the Yukon Energy Corp.

“You don’t need to be a mathematician to calculate that over the course of the last few years these constant outages have cost Yukoners a bundle,” wrote Cable.

“Over and above the dollar cost, many homeowners have gone through the cold weather wondering whether their homes were going to freeze up.”

Cable demanded a government investigation into poor power service and the enforcement of key performance indicators, something that was discussed during Yukon Energy’s recent general rate hearing.

The performance indicators that Yukon Energy uses must be broadened to cover more than just distribution, the Yukon Utilities Board ordered after the hearing.

Last year, Yukon Energy admitted that its power grid had fallen into disrepair after management failed to plan upgrades in the late 1990s.

Yukoners experienced dozens of power outages last year, some in the middle of winter.

On Tuesday, generator number four offered another surprise.

A capacitor on the generator, which regulates electrical flow, blew.

Power went out in Riverdale, Crestview, Macpherson, Porter Creek and parts of Faro.

The capacitor belonged to the exciter, which turns the spinning motion of the turbines into electrical energy.

Power was restored after 20 minutes, according to Patterson.

Yukon Energy had to use diesel overnight before replacing the card that held the capacitor on Wednesday.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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