Sunday’s Yellowknife power outage: Worse than you thought

Snare hydro system
An aerial view of an element of the Snare hydro system.
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When the power went out in Yellowknife last Sunday, most residents probably thought nothing of it.

Temporary power failures are not uncommon, to the point of a novelty Twitter account emerging in 2013 to count outages.

However, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) says the cause behind Sunday’s outage is bad – and expensive – news.

According to the NTPC, the outage came when the turbine at the Snare Falls hydro plant tripped offline, and the damage is bad enough to keep it out of action for at least two to six weeks.

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“Mechanics have been on site since Sunday morning evaluating the damage and the initial investigation has identified a broken bearing on the turbine,” read an NTPC statement.

“Current repair time is estimated at two to six weeks, depending on availability of parts and barring additional work that is identified once the unit is disassembled.”

That means more expensive diesel fuel will be required to keep Yellowknife ticking while the turbine is repaired.

Read: GNWT pays (some of) your power bill, prepares to borrow big

The NTPC says Snare Falls had been producing about four megawatts of power for Yellowknife, Behchoko and Dettah, a hole that must be filled by $40,000 of diesel each day until the turbine is back online.

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The power corporation wants residents to try “additional conservation efforts” to keep the cost down over the coming weeks, “especially at high-volume times throughout the day such as lunch and dinner times”.

Last fall, the territorial government spent $20 million to cover the costs of a power rate increase – instead of asking residents to pay.

That came after the NTPC revealed it needed to use more diesel in the face of extreme low water conditions on the Snare hydro system.

The Snare Falls turbine had been due to have its bearings replaced in the next 15 months.

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