Sitka Electric takes steps to avoid drought power outages

This summer’s drought forced Ketchikan Public Utilities to run diesel generators and limit use of hydroelectric power from the Swan Lake Hydro Facility due to low lake levels.
Since mid October, the city has been powered exclusively by generators, incurring high costs in fuel and maintenance.
Bryan Bertacchi, Utility Director for the Sitka Electric Department, joined KCAW’s Katherine Rose on the Morning Interview to discuss what steps Sitka is taking to avoid similar measures.
One of the key projects is the revitalization of the Marine Street Substation, which was built in 1980.
The Electric Department’s biggest concern at the facility is the nearly 50-year-old switch gear, essentially the substation’s circuit breaker.
“If we have a failure in there, it could be a very very long outage like 3, 4, 5 months without power for 80 percent of our customers,” Bertacchi said.
Bertacchi said Sitka did not have to rely on generators this year thanks to the the Blue Lake Dam expansion project, which saved electric customers $7 million dollars on fuel and maintenance costs for diesel power generators.

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