Anchorage, in a deep freeze spell, is still in the “green” zone for energy availability, but the warning lights are blinking after key wells in Cook Inlet that provide natural gas have been heavily tapped in recent cold weather. Those lights are blinking enough to have the mayor of Anchorage and local utilities call a last-minute press conference on Thursday to caution residents, while trying not to scare them.
Enstar Natural Gas Company, the largest utility in Southcentral Alaska, is asking people to conserve energy as the below zero temperatures persist through Friday.
Enstar President John Sims said in the nine years he has been with the utility, he has never seen demand so high. Enstar anticipates peak load demand Thursday night.
In the joint press conference with Mayor Dave Bronson and Matanuska Electric Association, Sims said that conservation is always a good idea, and the natural gas supply is stable, for now, but there is at least one well in Cook Line that will need some repairs, after heavy use has caused “sanding,” which can ultimately shut down a well. Fixing it during cold, dark days has significant challenges.
In the Mat-Su Valley, a widespread power outage occurred at the Eklutna Generation Station overnight on Wednesday, when one of the engines at the power plant developed a gas leak in a flange that connects pipes. The leak triggered safety measures to shut down a majority of the engines at the plant. All power was restored within 25 minutes after the system was switched over to diesel. Temperatures in the Valley reached as low as -25 on Wednesday night, -36 in Talkeetna.
The MEA outage was not related to a gas supply issue, but some 12,400 Chugach Electric Association customers also lost power because of a “load shedding event” that is occurring in the Railbelt, Chugach Electric said on Facebook. Load shedding is done to protect the overall system and prevent blackouts and involves rotating power outages, or reducing power consumption from primary sources until demand decreases or capacity increases.
Meanwhile, some members of the Assembly are having second thoughts about their resolution that supports dismantling the Eklutna dam. This afternoon, a hasty press conference was called by Assembly Chairman Chris Constant to call for a two-year extension on any changes to Eklutna hydropower, which is a steady supply of power to Anchorage.
“Sponsored by Assembly Members Constant, Kevin Cross and Meg Zaletel, the resolution outlines concerns regarding the development and implications of the Draft Fish and Wildlife Program as proposed and calls for a two-year extension to reevaluate project alternatives and rectify the process,” the trio said of their new resolution, which will evidently replace a prior resolution.
This week the Municipality also sent notices to commercial building owners who have buildings that may experience roof collapses due to the more than 104 inches of snow received so far this year. Building officials say they analyzed properties using Google Earth satellite imagery to determine which buildings have flat roofs that may be at risk. Over 1,000 property owners received the letters because they have roofs with wooden trusses fastened with metal gang nail plates.