Many Petersburg residents woke up without power at around 7 a.m. on May 31st when the Borough made its annual generator switchover. For the next three hours, a mechanical error caused rolling blackouts across Mitkof Island. 

Every year, the Southeast Alaska Power Agency — which provides hydroelectricity to the region — has to “pull the plug” for a period of maintenance. For the next week, the communities of Petersburg, Wrangell, and parts of Ketchikan will run on diesel power. Of the three communities, Petersburg was the only one to hit a snag. 

The Borough’s Utility Director, Karl Hagerman, said the day of the switch started out well. His department handled a successful transition to the municipal diesel plant. And then they had an issue with the cooling system on the main generator.

“We have several generators that are operating at the same time,” said Hagerman. “One of those generators is put in a lead position. If that machine fails, then the other machines can’t react quick enough to pick up that load. So the whole system goes down.”

Hagerman applauds Municipal Power and Light staff for working hard under pressure to restore power to the community. The lights came back on at approximately 10 a.m. With nine days left until the Borough returns to hydropower, Hagerman is confident the department won’t experience further issues with the diesel generator. 

Until June 9th, Hagerman said it’s important for community members to conserve power. The Borough is implementing an adjustment for the costs of fuel above $2.40 per gallon. All Power and Light customers — whether they’re residential, commercial, or industrial — will pay the same adjustment fee, which is spread over the kilowatt hours that they see on their bill. 

“It’s very important that everybody does conserve as much energy as possible,” said Hagerman. “It reduces the amount of fuel that we burn, which of course reduces the expense to the department and ultimately, the adjustment to the customers.” 

The maintenance period will end and the Borough will return to hydropower on Friday, June 9th, but Hagerman said it’s important to for customers to limit their energy use throughout the entire billing period. The adjustment doesn’t only calculate the gallons of fuel burned during the shutdown, but the overall amount of energy the Borough uses in the June billing period. For more information, call Power and Light at (907)772-5433.