The Yukon Energy dam in Whitehorse in 2015. Yukon Energy will be running its diesel generators in Whitehorse for a little longer and more than normal this spring thanks to the unusually low snowpack from the winter of 2018-19 and the break-down of one of its liquid natural gas generator. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Yukon Energy running more diesel, investigating Riverdale noise complaints

President and CEO Andrew Hall said a noise monitor is in use to collect data in various locations

Yukon Energy will be running its diesel generators in Whitehorse for a little longer and more often than normal this spring thanks to the unusually low snowpack from the winter of 2018-19 and the break-down of a liquid natural gas generator.

“We got into a particular situation just this quarter where we found that we were arriving at the bottom of our reservoirs and we have to run diesel for a couple of weeks just to get us through to … the spring melt,” Yukon Energy president and CEO Andrew Hall said in an interview April 23.

There’s about a year-long delay between a snowfall and when utility can use the water to generate electricity, Hall explained — the snowpack any given year melts and enters one of three reservoirs over the summer, and the water is then used over the fall and winter.

The water levels in the reservoirs were already low at the end of 2019 because of the dry winter, and colder-than-normal temperatures this January to April caused both an increase in demand for electricity and reduction of inflows into the reservoir.

Combined with losing the use of one of its three liquid natural gas (LNG) generators over the Easter long weekend, Yukon Energy was left with little choice but to turn to diesel, Hall said.

A Yukon Energy press release said the utility expects that it will need to generate about 16.5 gigawatt hours of electricity using “thermal resources” in April and early May, or about enough to power 16,500 homes for a month. Of that, 72 per cent is expected to be generated using LNG, with the remaining 28 per cent, diesel.

Hall acknowledged that there have been complaints from Riverdale residents about the noise created by the diesel generators.

“I mean, obviously we’re sensitive to the complaints — we certainly don’t intend to disrupt people’s lives, but we’re in a pretty tight spot here,” he said.

However, while there are typically comments whenever Yukon Energy runs them, Hall said something seemed to be different this time around.

“Something seems to be odd … this time because we’re getting a lot more complaints than normal, which we’re a bit puzzled by,” he said.

Hall said there’s “speculation” that the rise in complaints could be because there’s no more snow on the ground and trees to help muffle the noise like in the dead of winter, or because more people are at home now due to COVID-19. To get more “facts and data,” Yukon Energy has flown up a noise monitor from Vancouver, which was placed at a substation across the river from the generators for 24 hours beginning the night of April 22. It was then move to a Riverdale resident’s backyard the night of April 23.

Hall said the monitor will be moved to a “couple of different locations” for 24-hours periods.

“We want to understand, what is the level of noise?” he said. “I mean, we know we’re getting complaints but let’s just ground ourselves in some data… There are various guidelines out there that are generally followed in the Yukon so we just want to see, where are we landing compared to those benchmarks?”

Yukon Energy will also be looking at its equipment over the weekend to see if there’s “a particular engine that’s really being noisy” that can be shut down once water levels have stabilized, or any other internal issues that might be causing more noise than normal.

While installing soundproofing might be possible, Hall said that’s a long-term solution that requires some investigation to happen first.

“In terms of addressing the problem we have today with noise, we can’t just go in and put in soundproofing — we wouldn’t know where to start with that, really,” he said.

Hall said he’s was hopeful Yukon Energy would be able to cut back on the use of the diesel generators in a week or two if warm temperatures continue and meltwater starts replenishing the reservoirs.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Yukon Energy

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read