Outages Caused by Record Early Season Snowfall

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Ruralite | 0 comments

Spruce trees loaded with snow primary cause of series of outages

(Fairbanks, AK) – Interior Alaska experienced record daily snowfall on the first two days of October 2021, subsequently causing a number of outages across Golden Valley Electric Association’s (GVEA) service area. Outages began early Sunday morning and continued through the night of Monday, Oct. 4. In total, 165 outages were recorded in this timeframe, affecting 11,968 GVEA members throughout this period.

Many small isolated outages, frequently needing repairs, slowed down the restoration process because each outage required a significant amount of time to restore. Even after restoration, only a handful of members were energized at a time. The number of members out of power at once peaked at approximately 4,500, with outages lasting an average of about 6 hours.

Josh Davis, Director of Operations at GVEA, explained, “The damage was mostly due to spruce trees that were loaded with snow and the tops broke off falling onto the power lines. This involved repairs such as putting wire back up or replacing cross arms and braces broken from the falling tree tops.”

Each year, GVEA Right of Way (ROW) crews work to clear the area around power lines on a rotating basis as a way to significantly reduce the number and duration of power outages. ROW clearing also allows GVEA crews quick and easy access to power lines to identify causes and make necessary repairs. According to Davis, the trees lineworkers dealt with during the storm were well outside of GVEA’s right of way.

GVEA crews worked around the clock, alongside local contractor crews from Fullford Electric and Northern Powerline Constructors, until all power was restored. In total, crews worked about 65 hours to repair all outages.

Power Systems Manager, Pete Sarauer, credits GVEA’s Outage Management System and AMI meter system with contributing to GVEA’s ability to manage the outages and locations so that crews could be dispatched in a timely fashion.

“All in all this was a relatively small storm event, but it was larger than GVEA has seen in a few years,” Sarauer said. “Everyone did a great job, especially considering that we haven’t seen an outage of this size in a while.”

“Everyone involved in this outage situation did great working together to restore power in the most efficient way possible,” Davis agreed. “We also did a good debrief with internal staff and field crews, to talk generally about things that went well or areas to improve. Now we can resolve any issues and do an even better job next time, but ultimately this storm outage restoration went very well.”

Golden Valley Electric Association provides electricity to over 100,000 people GVEA’s mission is to safely provide these members with reliable electric service, quality customer service and innovative energy solutions at fair and reasonable prices.


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