Sitka experienced small blips in power this morning (01-25-16), likely due to a failing transformer owned and operated by the Seafood Producers’ Cooperative.
Electric Director Bryan Bertacchi said the department has been working with the Coop to remedy the issue. “We’ve got some transformers coming over from Juneau and we’re going to try to get those installed for them in the next day or so, so they’re all ready to go for the season,” he said.
The transformer at the Seafood Producers’ Cooperative is tied onto the city’s electric grid and like a lot of Sitka’s transformers, is over 35 years old. “The addition of the some of the new equipment that [SPC] installed put additional stress on that old transformer and that transformer failed,” Bertacchi said. “We certainly want to support them. They’re a great customer, great community member providing a lot of jobs in the community, and we want to do everything possible to assist them.”
Sitka experienced numerous power blips two weeks ago from an unrelated issue. Bertacchi’s department traced the problem to a T-connection in a cable on Japonski Island. He added that the fault was difficult to identity, but ultimately cheap to fix. “[The fault] would only last for a very short duration of about 16 milliseconds and then it would totally clear and we might have to wait up to five hours for it to occur again. So trying to isolate it was difficult and we apologize to all of our customers,” he said. “It was difficult to find that fault, but it was discovered and it was repaired.”
Since Sitka’s power grid is on an island, with no alternate systems, Bertacchi explains that a failure in one part of the system is difficult to fix quickly. His department is developing 10 year plan to mitigate these issues in the future. He told KCAW, “We’re trying to look at at this aging infrastructure and try and make rational decisions about what to repair first and at what cost and what we can probably leave for longer.”
Meanwhile, the back-up transformer for the Marine Street substation, which powers 80% of Sitka’s customers, continues to undergo repair in South Dakota. Bertacchi expects the transformer to return in April or May.