The community of Adak has electricity again after issues at its power plant shut down local operations for nearly a week, according to City Manager Layton Lockett.
Two failures in the system forced the nation’s westernmost city to close city offices, the school and the local clinic for six days, and community members were forced to rely on small generators for power, Lockett said.
The community of roughly 100 people has a single diesel powerhouse. In the days when the Navy was operating on the western Aleutian Island, there were five power plants there, according to Lockett. But it’s been more than two decades since the Pentagon shuttered the large naval air base that once housed 6,000 service members and their families.
“We do not have the demand to have multiple power plants,” Lockett said. “Even the existing powerhouse was built for many megawatts of power generation. The power plant being used was the central ‘hub,’ if you will, and was built in the early days. In fact, it still has the old steam boilers that burned bunker oil, sectioned off of course due to asbestos concerns.”
While long-term plans call for wind and hydro to be integrated into the city’s grid, Lockett said it’s critical to replace the current diesel system.
During last week’s outage, Alaska Airlines was able to continue to fly to the remote community thanks to the use of generators to power critical equipment, Lockett said. But the city did have to resort to manually pumping its sewage lift stations after several days.
Lockett said he hopes the issues at the powerhouse won’t be ongoing. The city and TDX Adak Generating — which took over utility operations in 2008 — have been working with other stakeholders for the last couple of years to secure funding to put a new power plant in City Hall’s backyard.
“This will bring the plant much closer to town while also allowing flexibility, should another catastrophic event occur in the future,” Lockett said.
One of the benefits of moving the power plant, besides the fuel efficiency, is that the city will have a direct feed into its building, allowing them to have power even if something happens on the grid, he said. They’re also developing a plan to allow the new water treatment plant and City Hall to utilize the waste heat.
Lockett estimates it’ll be another six to nine months until the new plant is in place, hampered in part by manufacturing delays and the logistics of installing a new plant in the remote community.