Kenai Peninsula residents found themselves without electric power Monday evening after the entire Homer Electric Association power grid went down. The exact cause of the outage remains a mystery.
The outage began at about 4:15 p.m. and affected the entire peninsula, from Nanwalek to Nikiski. And for most HEA members, the outage was a lengthy one – more than four hours.
HEA Spokesperson Joe Gallagher said the utility does not know exactly what caused the power to go out.
"It was related to something that happened on a transmission line that runs from the Bradley Lake hydroelectric project at the head of Kachemak Bay to Homer," said Gallagher.
Gallagher says a tree could have fallen on the line or a lightning strike could have caused the line to trip off. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to set off a chain reaction, causing the Bradley Lake plant to shut down and the entire HEA grid to go black.
Gallagher says a crew in a helicopter went up Monday evening to inspect the line from the air but they could not see any problem. The decision was then made to reenergize the grid circuit by circuit, a process that takes about an hour.
He says that normally, there is a backup to the system, in the form of a second transmission line running parallel to the one that went out. But due to construction work going on at HEA’s generation plant in Soldotna, part of that line is temporarily out of commission.
Gallagher says HEA was able to restore power to some areas, including Kenai, Sterling and Nikiski, within an hour or so but the rest of the grid proved to be trickier.
He says an investigation into what exactly caused the large outage will continue. Anyone who is still experiencing issues with their electric power to call HEA’s outage hotline at 1-888-8OUTAGE.