The mayor of Akhiok has been working on replacing the small community’s power grid for about ten years. Power outages are increasing as the electrical system grows older and the grid is beginning to pose a danger to residents.
The City of Akhiok needs a new power grid. The most recent reminder of this happened at the end of September when Akhiok’s school lost power for almost three weeks. The school kept its light on and doors open by running off a diesel-powered generator until the malfunctioning power line could be found and repaired.
Power outages aren’t anything new in the Kodiak Archipelago’s southernmost community.But they’re becoming more frequent as time goes on says Dan McCoy, Akhioks mayor. He’s also an electrician and runs the town’s power plant.
“I’ve been shocked more times than I can count.”
Akhiok’s power grid is about 40 years old. McCoy says it should’ve been replaced around a decade ago. The cables that make up the grid are buried 2-3 feet underground. Which makes maintenance difficult and replacing the grid expensive. McCoy estimates it’ll cost around $1 million to get a new grid that’s subterranean.
Power grids that suspend wires from poles are less expensive and easier to maintain. But those kinds of grids won’t work in Akhiok because they wouldn’t hold up against the region’s wind.
“Those guys down in the southern states, they cry about a few hours of wind in a hurricane. We have hundred mile an hour winds that are sustained for a week at a time, you know.”
McCoy says he submitted a proposal for replacing Akhiok’s power grid to the governor’s office earlier this year. He doesn’t know if it’s been accepted or rejected, but McCoy says he’ll hopefully know soon. Especially since the older, the grid gets, the more dangerous it becomes. McCoy has to routinely chase kids away from transformers and controls station around the village because he’s afraid they’ll malfunction and hurt someone.
“The wiring infrastructure in the ground is in pretty bad shape and if there is ever a short in the wiring and there’s not good grounds on everything someone could get zapped.”
So far no one’s been electrocuted. If McCoy’s request for funding is denied he says the community will just keep the current grid operating until it raises the money to replace it.
“Just keep digging it up as the shorts occur and keep trying for funding. Keep trying to put pennies together to get a project going.”
McCoy says he’ll reach out to the governor’s office in the near future to find out the status of his proposal. He says he was suppose to hear an update sometime in October but hasn’t yet.