Juneau Is Off Generator Power

For everyone who has been wondering about our power shortage here in juneau, The Juneau Empire is reporting:

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. reported power restored at about 5:05 p.m., and the diesel generators keeping the city lit during the past three weeks were shut down shortly after.Engineers bypassed tower No. 3-5 – the lone casualty during the Jan. 12 slide – to another tower less vulnerable to avalanches, AEL&P Vice President Scott Willis said.

“Engineers … determined that the standing towers on either side … could handle the (power) load,” he said.

The Juneau Empire goes on to say:

The most recent energy crisis lasted just half the time of last year’s, and will cost a fraction of the $6 million in damage caused by last spring’s avalanche. Willis estimated repairs this time around would be in the neighborhood of $1 million.

Though final numbers won’t be available until later today, Willis said roughly 1.6 million gallons of diesel – or $3.6 million worth of fuel – were burned during the city’s three weeks without hydro power.

For residential users, that will mean just one month of paying for a 15-cent Emergency Cost of Power Adjustment, which Willis said AEL&P will ask the state’s Regulatory Commission for later this week. Energy costs during the current billing cycle will be about 25 cents per kilowatt hour.

Willis warned residents to continue conserving energy because the more expensive billing cycle is still in effect. The end of the billing cycle varies from person to person. Details about residential billing can be found at www.aelp.com.

Juneau Is Running On Diesel Power Again

I was sitting in my office yesterday afternoon when the power went out. Living in Juneau you get used to that happening randomly. I soon learned after the power was restored that another avalanche, much like the one last year, took out a towers that provides Juneau it’s electricity from the Snettisham hydroelectric damn.

According to the Juneau Empire website

An avalanche took down the Snettisham transmission line Monday afternoon that supplies Juneau with electricity, presenting the possibility of another energy crisis.

It’s the second time in a year that an avalanche destroyed the line.

Monday’s avalanche occurred at around 1:40 p.m. south of the capital, knocking out one of the same structures destroyed during massive avalanches last April.

Last year’s disaster resulted in Juneau relying on costly backup diesel power for a month and a half, increasing utility costs for consumers and prompting residents to conserve electricity usage by one-third.

“We’re going to be down for some time so we need to ask the community to conserve again like they did last time,” Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. spokesman Scott Willis said.

After the company surveyed the damage Monday from a helicopter, Willis said it was too early to know how long it would take to repair the structure.

“Now that we see what condition the tower’s in, and the towers next to it, we can start to develop a plan,” Willis said. “I know everybody wants to know how long it’s going to take, but we’re just now getting into a plan. It’s going to be days certainly, weeks probably and I don’t know more than that.”

Power consumption fell about 30 percent in April after the rate changes were announced. Residents reported a wide range of adjustments to conserve electricity, from swapping out traditional light bulbs for high efficiency compact florescents to using a clothesline instead of a dryer to putting timers on water heaters.

Ken Burch, a Douglas resident who likened last year’s outage to “Juneau’s Hurricane Katrina” and tried to rally support for AEL&P to protect the rebuilt lines in a May letter to the editor, said he wasn’t surprised by the news Monday.

“They knew from the experience last spring this could happen. They’ve still chosen not to deal with it. It means we’ve got to keep pressure on them,” Burch said. “I’m not sure if they’ve learned yet. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me that this happened.”

Shana Sellers of Douglas was upset that the city would be in the same situation again.

“Why haven’t we done anything about it?” she asked. “Why haven’t we done anything to resolve this issue?”

Damage was done to a “three-pole structure” identified as No. 3-5, which consists of three separate towers the company considers one structure. Each tower holds one wire, or one phase, of the three-phase line that travels the approximately 40-mile distance from the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project to Juneau.

“Last year there were three different structures in three different locations that were damaged,” Willis said. “And this one, which was kind of in the middle, was the last spot that we were able to safely access. There was ongoing avalanche danger in this area more than the ones on either side.”

The repair last year cost more than $3 million.

“It will be much less than that this year, I think, but it depends on how much more difficult it will be in the wintertime and that sort of thing,” Willis said.

The weather is likely to hamper repair efforts because of the ongoing avalanche danger, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a more difficult job,” Willis said. “Now, the bright side is that it’s just one (structure), not three and diesel fuel is cheaper now that it was last spring.”

The town will continue to run on backup diesel generators at least for the coming days, Willis said. The company has a three-day supply it keeps in storage and was in contact with two oil companies about buying additional reserves in town.

As of late Monday afternoon, AEL&P had not yet discussed the likelihood of going to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to ask for an emergency Cost of Power Adjustment to increase rates for Juneau consumers.

Rates went up by about 450 percent last spring.

City Manager Rod Swope said it is still too early to see what, if anything, the city and Assembly can do to help offset potential energy cost increases for Juneau residents.

“We’ve been here before, and we’re here again,” Swope said at an Assembly meeting Monday night. “At least we have some experience in the situation.”

Willis told the Assembly that Anchorage consultants are flying to Juneau to look at possible temporary fixes.

Fortunately, Mendenhall Valley residents should be able to keep their wood stoves burning this week instead of using electric heat.

City Lands and Resource Manager Heather Marlow said it’s unlikely there will be a valley air emergency and burn ban.

“The forecast is rainy, storm cells coming through, mild winter temperatures – none of the factors that contribute to air problems in the valley. This week looks great,” Marlow said.

A Juneau Morning With Out Power

I set my alarm last night so I would wake up earlier then normal this morning. I had been hearing all day yesterday that we were expected to get five inches of snow during the night, and I wanted to be awake early enough to clear the snow off our vehicles so Hannah and I could get the work on time.

Well I got up and did just that. After a quick shower I strapped on my boots, grabbed my gloves and pulled a hat on over my head. Using a snow brush from my truck I cleared the piled up snow off of both of our vehicals. I then started my car and let it warm up and went back inside. I didn’t start Hannah’s because she hand a couple of hours before she had to be at work.

When I got inside the house I noticed all the lights where out and realized we were experiencing another Juneau power outage. I got a flash light out so Hannah and I could see our way around before calling some of the guys I work with to find out how bad the power outage was.

Twenty minutes later I was at work having left a little earlier then I normally do. My office was darker then normal because the power outage also affected our office. After about two hours all of our clients we service had power restored and I had my core group of guys going around helping bring up servers and implementing repairs where needed.

Photo by: Brian Wallace Alaska Electric Light & Power
Photo by: Brian Wallace Alaska Electric Light & Power

The Juneau Empire website reported the following about the power outage.

Trees fell on three different areas of power lines this morning, causing an area-wide power outage.

One tree fell on a line near the airport, one fell downtown and one fell in the Salmon Creek area, according to Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. spokeswoman Gayle Wood.

As of 10 a.m., power had been restored to the Mendenhall Valley, Wood, said, while crews were trying to remove the large tree that fell on transmission lines near the Salmon Creek area.

Wood said she expected power to be restored to all areas by 10:45 a.m., but power appeared restored in areas near downtown by 10:30 a.m.

AEL&P is Juneau’s privately owned electric utility company that has 15,500 customers.

We Are Running On Diesel Generators

Looks like this morning the city of Juneau lost power from Juneau’s Hydro Power due to an avalanche.

Juneau’s electricity rates are likely to triple on May bills as the result of an avalanche early this morning that cut all hydroelectric power to the area, according to an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokeswoman.

Juneau is running on diesel generators at Auke Bay and Lemon Creek, said Gayle Wood, director of consumer affairs.

One transmission tower is down and four damaged on the Snettisham line, which connects hydro power to the service area.

Outages were limited to the Thane area this morning, because the power load transferred to the diesel generators that were already running.

Wood said it would be two to three weeks before workers could safely begin repairing the line and that hydro power wouldn’t be restored for at least three months.

Well, this is going to make for a very expensive next few months.


According to the KINY radio website, a rep from Alaska Electric Light and Power says that they are working to try and figure out how to secure enough diesel to handle 3 to 4 months of usage. They are stressing the importance of power conservation.

Alaska Electric Light and Power said that they have been trying to assess the damage from the air

…a massive avalanche about three miles from the Snettisham power house that took out about a mile and a hour of transmission line. That includes damage to four to five towers…

The website continues with:

The electric utility official says customers can expect to see some very high bills. 

Residential rates were at 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

Alaska Electric Light and Powe initially estimated it would go to 30 to 35 cents, but has since revised that figure to 50 cents and adds that’s a conservative figure.