The three new turbines can generate 5.3 MWhr each. With them, Sitka's generation capacity increased 30%. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The three new turbines were built in England by Gilkes, and generate 5.3 MWhr each. With them, Sitka’s generation capacity increased 30%. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Sitka Electric Department has discovered corrosion in the three new blue lake turbines. 

During their last meeting (08-09-16), Utility Director Bryan Bertacchi informed the Assembly of the issue. “We disassembled partially the three blue lake turbines prior to the end of the warranty period. I just wanted to let the Assembly know that we found kind of unexpected levels of cavitation, erosion, and some corrosion that we didn’t expect,” Bertacchi said.

Bertacchi also told the Assembly, “There’s no imminent failure that’s going to occur. This is a long term issue. And we’re working with Gilkes, the turbine manufacturer, to try to resolve it. So we had Gilkes’ [technicians] here from England just a couple of weeks ago.”

Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Ltd. manufactured the turbines and installed them in 2014. Bertacchi said the corrosion was discovered at the base, where the propeller is located. Gilkes is studying computer models of the turbines. Using that information, Bertacchi said the department will ascertain what repairs are required, whether there was fault by Gilkes, and how the warranty may cover that.

Over the phone with KCAW, Bertacchi said the issue was discovered during an inventory of the city’s electrical system. He said, “Blue Lake [Dam] is a very important asset for the community. The community spent a lot of money on Blue Lake and we want to make sure it lasts for 30 to 50 years. We were trying to be proactive, before the warranty is over and while the manufacturer still has significant responsibility. We wanted to make sure the turbines were in top notch condition.”

The Electric Department nipped another power issue in the bud last winter, replacing a 35-year-old transformer at the Marine Street Substation in danger of failure. The second transformer, which the Assembly approved, is in construction and will be shipped within the next two months.