Recent Power Outages Caused By Bethel Power Plant Installing New Equipment

Nov 10, 2020

AVEC power plant in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Lenny Welch / AVEC

The Bethel power plant had two unexpected power outages in two days, cutting electricity to Bethel, Oscarville, and Napaskiak.

The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative operates the plant. The outages are a result of AVEC installing new equipment to meet the extra energy demand of the expanded Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital in Bethel.


Bethel Power Plant Manager Lenny Welch called the outages "growing pains." The power plant is 45 years old, and testing and rewiring engines added to a new switch gear module disrupted the system.


The midday outage on Nov. 9 lasted about 25 minutes, and the outage on the morning of Nov. 10 ran about 45 minutes.


Welch hopes to not have any more outages, but if an outage occurs, he asks customers to make its return smoother by turning off breakers or unplugging equipment with high energy demands, like electric boilers and water pumps. This will decrease the likelihood of tripping the feeders, because the plant won’t have to power so much equipment all at once. Welch said that this practice can also prolong the life of your equipment.


“We’re doing the best we can," Welch said. "We don’t like these any better than the customers do.”