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First day back on diesel sees power outage

Daily News Staff Writer

Late Tuesday morning an oil mist detector inside the largest diesel generator at the Bailey Powerplant detected elevated pressure levels inside the crankcase and triggered a shutdown of the unit to prevent an explosion, sending areas on Revillagigedo Island into a brief blackout.

Ketchikan Public Utilities staff responded to the 10:25 a.m. outage by firing up the rental diesel generators and Bailey generators No. 2 and 3, and within six minutes started restoring power to affected areas. All power was restored within 24 minutes, according to Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division Manager Andy Donato.

The outage affected all areas except the downtown core.

"We've had outages where just everything goes down," said Donato, "and this one was close."

At the time of the outage, KPU was running Bailey generator No. 4, and was getting hydro power from its facilities at Beaver Falls, Ketchikan Lakes, Silvis Lake, and Whitman Lake.

KPU was generating electricity solely on hydropower since Aug. 30. Tuesday was its first day back using diesels, in part because of maintenance on the Swan Lake hydroelectric facility.

The Southeast Alaska Power Association shut down the Swan Lake facility and the Bailey intertie line this morning to perform some deferred maintenance that is expected to last until the end of this week.

As far as the oil mist detector, Donato says that this wasn't the first time that it's triggered a shutdown on Bailey generator No. 3.

The utility has plans to replace the oil mist detector, as it's several evolutions old and repair parts are no longer available for it, according to Donato.

"We took apart the mechanisms for the oil mist detector, blew out the lines, cleaned up the sensor, put it back together, tested it, put it back in service," said Donato.

Donato expressed concern over the flow of calls into the utility during an outage. He said that many people who call are asking the same questions, and when they can't get through to him, they call other numbers in the utility.

"In trying to gather that intel I put a lot of pressure on my people and so my people have to also be on the phone and answer a lot of questions as opposed to directing their attention just to restoration," said Donato.

"We do this in the heat of the moment after these outages," said Donato. "It's just one of those things we have to live through and try to balance and answer the questions accurately and get things restored."

According to Jeremy Bynum, PE, who is the electric systems engineering manager at KPU, it was the 10th power outage this year.

Donato said the most common outages are caused by birds and tree branches.

Bynum mentioned an outage on June 24 that was caused by an eagle dropping a salmon carcass at one of the utility's substations.