Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Martin Lawrie

Power outage was costly: company

The latest power outage in Whitehorse has caused thousands of dollars’ damage to sensitive electronic equipment,

By Whitehorse Star on September 9, 2019

The latest power outage in Whitehorse has caused thousands of dollars’ damage to sensitive electronic equipment, says Tangerine Technology, “Most major power outages will result in some degree of failed electronic equipment,” said Martin Lawrie, the chief operating officer at Tangerine Technology, the territory’s largest IT solutions provider.

“What we’re becoming increasingly concerned about is the frequency of these outages, as we’re approaching nearly monthly occurrences,” he said Sunday.

“Surge protectors and UPS battery backups do help, but not as much as one would think,” added Martin Lehner, Tangerine’s lead technician.

“Yes, they do keep equipment running during a power outage, or yes, they do protect equipment from a massive surge in electricity, such as a lightning strike.

“What they don’t do is compensate for more minute problems, such as small deviations in expected voltage, or cycles,” Lehner noted.

Saturday afternoon’s power outage in Riverdale and parts of downtown was caused by a raven, Jay Massie, ATCO Electric Yukon’s manager, said this morning.

A raven flew into the Riverdale substation, causing a trip in the feed coming from the Whitehorse Rapids Dam, he told the Star.

The outage occurred at 4:40 p.m. and all 2,712 customers affected had their power restored no later than 5:53 p.m., said Massie.

All of Riverdale was without power, he said, along with customers from Third 
 Avenue to Sixth Avenue from Jeckell Street to Main Street, and from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue from Main Street to Jarvis Street.

“These types of issues are the ones that contribute the most to premature failure of electronic equipment. To be honest with you, we don’t see that many direct lightning strikes,” Lehner said.

“The latest power outage that we experienced this past Saturday, thus far, has caused over $6,000 in damages,” added Lawrie.

“Unfortunately, that even included some equipment in our own office.

“Understandably, our clients are becoming increasingly frustrated with the downtime, problems, and costs that these outages create.”

While the Yukon government has committed to addressing Internet reliability through redundancy, Lehner added, “there seems to be little to no interest in addressing electrical reliability.

“The taxpayers have committed to funding the majority of a $79-million fibre optic line to create redundancy for telecommunications, but there has been no commitment to reducing the frequency or severity of these power outages.

“Quite frankly, from our perspective, the problems created by power outages are currently more detrimental to our client base than the less frequent mass Internet outages.” Lehner said.

“We could have used those funds to address our electricity concerns, but obviously that’s not what the elected officials decided to do with our money,” added Lawrie.

“We have actually asked the Government of Yukon why this occurred, and they were unwilling to discuss it. So I suppose we’ll have to draw our own conclusions from that.”

Lehner said many of the company’s clients have begun asking staff to implement power protection systems for them.

“There are specialized pieces of equipment that are designed to deal with these types of electrical concerns, and while they aren’t generally that popular or often deployed in Western, highly developed countries like Canada, unfortunately they’re starting to become a necessity in the Yukon.

“Personally, I find that rather embarrassing, but, unfortunately, it is what it is,” Lehner added.

Massie declined to comment on the company’s statements, which he said he hasn’t seen.

Comments (11)

Up 9 Down 0

Cliff on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:43 am

Well. At least the fringe people feeding off the host didn't cause this outage with their wires strung through the bush in various fashion.

Up 10 Down 9

Werner Rhein on Sep 13, 2019 at 3:10 pm

It is not the specialized equipment you need. We need to change the fine print in the contract with ATCO / Yukon Electric, so we can sue them for damage occurred on our electronic equipment and also on income lost because of power outs.

For many, many years at every power out, I call and report it. I also ask for a manager at least during business hours to ask them when they will start to make the power grid more reliable, starting to put the overhead powerlines underground.
Starting with the lines cutting through the forest, where the cutlines at least 3 times to narrow and at every bid of wind or snowfall thee branches or whole trees will hit the powerlines creating power outages.
Answer from these to highly paid managers, "this would be way to expensive".

Question is, what about the expenses that occur to us, their customers. Which they by contract are supposed to provide a reliable electricity supply.

Now I'm so glad, I get support from the top, Minister Goodale told the Utility Suppliers in the Maritimes to make their electrical supply more reliable.

Europe started to put the power grid underground after the WWI and by now you won't see any powerlines above ground except the high power transmission lines.
Including transformer stations.

No more ravens or squirrels fried.

Up 28 Down 2

Sparky on Sep 11, 2019 at 5:54 pm

So Orange wants to sell me equipment to protect my electronics but the same equipment doesn’t protect their own electronics?

What a deal!

Up 35 Down 4

Patti Eyre on Sep 10, 2019 at 9:59 am

Ravens and squirrels, can't believe they hold us hostage on almost a monthly occurence!

Up 42 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Sep 10, 2019 at 7:46 am

Damaged electronic equipment is nothing new for our electrical service providers. The quality of their product roams on either side of the 60hz standard electronic devices were manufactured to operate on and approved by CSA and Underwriters Labratories.
Somewhere in the swamp of operating conditions, YEC has a clause that says they are not responsible for what happens to our expensive electronic gear that suffers damage from power supply issues from faulty generation or distribution. Perhaps we need to ask our MLAs why this poor standard of service is acceptable in light of the high costs we pay for electrical energy?

Up 23 Down 23

Angus Young on Sep 10, 2019 at 12:33 am

Funny how this issue has become more of a concern since the Liberals took office...
Power to the people you say,
It’s truly not the Liberal way,
You can vote and you can pay,
We’re still gonna take your power away,

Hmmm... Electricity, highways, cell service, internet service, housing shortage, land shortage, tiny homes, the Shelter fiasco and Justice... It seems like we pay an awful lot of money for an awful lot of shite! FFS - Why do you people tolerate this level of incompetence? Why do you allow these predatory relations?

It reminds of a chorus in a song by Annie Lennox and David Stewart:
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused

Who am I to disagree?
A new cover by the fabulous new band: The Yukoners!
Are you predator or are you prey and does it change for you from day-to-day?

Up 33 Down 1

Greg Bennett on Sep 9, 2019 at 6:09 pm

As 47-year employee for two of the top 6 electric utilities in the USA I am aware of some very innovative fixes out there for raven-caused outages. Feel free to email me if interested in discussing.

Up 38 Down 8

jc on Sep 9, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Just write larry claus a nice pre Christmas letter and he will cut a multi-million dollar check before election day. Oh, and would you mind putting in a small mention of senor citizens. Some are getting a bit outstretched in their monthly budgets.

Up 33 Down 8

Centre on Sep 9, 2019 at 4:42 pm

“What they don’t do is compensate for more minute problems, such as small deviations in expected voltage, or cycles,” Lehner noted.

The statement above is pure gibberish. Also why is Orange the go to place when the media needs to hear whining?

Up 27 Down 4

Mr. Triggs on Sep 9, 2019 at 4:23 pm

I agree the power grid has room for improvement but am boggled by the motive displayed in this diatribe attacking a good-news infrastructure project while complaining about something wholly unrelated - it's weird and clearly contrived. I for one am looking forward to the redundant fibre line, something Yukoners (including me) have been asking for as long as I’ve lived here (15 years). Chambers and tech companies have been singing in chorus incessantly for years about the need for redundancy, so not sure what these guy’s problem is. Maybe they can educate an old fart, but then again... I doubt it!

For the electrical grid, is there not some way to keep those pesky critters out of sensitive equipment? Seems someone should invent something to help address this problem. Not sure how the logic of abandoning other critical infrastructure projects is supposed to accomplish this one fellas.

I think these tech guys should go back to what they do best - policing / complaining about non-profit organizations who don’t have secure server certificates installed on their websites.

Up 34 Down 3

MJH on Sep 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Let me guess who I could buy this "specialized" (read expensive) piece of equipment from...

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