Tuluksak Emergency Generator Fails

by Ben Matheson on March 2, 2015

The Tuluksak power facility during the November, 2014 outage. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

The Tuluksak power facility during the November, 2014 outage. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Tuluksak residents are now on the backup to the backup electric generator. The state flew out a second generator after part of the fan assembly failed Thursday, leaving the community without power for days for the second time in four months. Power was restored Sunday afternoon.

Emily Ford is the Energy Policy and Outreach Manager for the Alaska Energy Authority. She says the failure of the backup is not a complete surprise.

“Those emergency generators have a definite shelf live of only 3 to 4 months, so we need to actively work with the utility to find some long term solutions to provide the power with the power it needs,” said Ford.

The tribally-owned utility has a history of maintenance problems. Power was out for a week during a warm spell in November. That melted freezers and spoiled many families’ subsistence food that they had stored for the winter. Ford says AEA is working with Tuluksak to find a way forward.

“The utility has had four generators burn out, two are unsalvageable and two need significant repairs. There are some changes that need to be made at the utility in order for them to provide long-term and stable power for residents of Tuluksak,” said Ford.

AEA estimates it would cost $600,000 to fix the four generators and related equipment. Willie Phillip, the utility manager in Tuluksak, says the company is putting away money and seeking grants to bring the system back to health.

“I think the previous managers weren’t doing their jobs and the operators were not trained for the maintenance,” said Phillip.

Phillip says he’s been managing Tuluksak’s power since 2013. He says he’s hoping for AEA maintenance crews to fix the initial backup generator this week. Ford says technicians had to order the parts from England.

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