A transmission line damaged by the Swan Lake Fire is causing power costs to rise for residents living north of Sterling, Julie Hasquet, corporate communication manager for Chugach Electric said.
The peninsula communities of Cooper Landing, Hope, and Moose Pass — which are serviced by Chugach Electric — and Seward, which is serviced by the city, will see power bills go up, but communities south of Cooper Landing will not be impacted.
The power cost increases — which are expected to be 3% to 6% higher than normal, until the transmission line is back in service — will be noticed by customers in the next few months, a Monday press release sent by Chugach Electric said.
South of Sterling, power from Bradley Lake remains available in communities serviced by Homer Electric Association, Bruce Shelley, Homer Electric Association director of member relations said.
Earlier this summer, the Swan Lake Fire damaged a transmission line connecting the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project to the Chugach power lines, and connecting power lines in the Matanuska Susitna Valley and Fairbanks.
The Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project is the largest of seven hydroelectric facilities in the state, and produces up to 10% of the energy needs along the rail belt, the release said. The project provides power to Chugach Electric, the city of Seward, Homer Electric Association, Municipal Light and Power, Matanuska Electric Association and Golden Valley Electric Association. Hasquet said everyone along the rail belt will be impacted, not just Chugach Electric customers.
With no Bradley Lake power coming north of Sterling, Chugach Electric and other power companies to the north are using more natural gas to compensate. Natural gas is more expensive than hydroelectric power. For Chugach Electric, 10% of their power comes from Bradley Lake.
The transmission line has been out of service for several weeks, according to the press release, at the request of fire crews.
“We want our members to have notice that they will see rates increase as a result of this fire due to damage to the transmission line that connects Chugach to the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project,” Chugach CEO Lee Thibert said in the press release. “This is a case of a natural disaster impacting the power grid, and we will continue to work with fire managers and our neighboring utilities to find out when it’s safe to go in and assess the damage and make a plan for repairs.”
The Swan Lake Fire is more than 167,000 acres and is estimated to be at 81% containment. Hot spots remain along the transmission line, which have kept crews from getting to the area for a full damage assessment.
A recent aerial survey showed fire damaged more than 60 poles and associated structures, the release said.
In conjunction with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Homer Electric Association is developing plans to assess fire-related damage to transmission lines along the Sterling Highway, a Wednesday press release from Homer Electric Association said.