Alaska Electric Light & Power has been updating avian protection plans for more than 20 years and is continuing to make great strides.
By Eric Eriksen, Alaska Electric Light & Power Co.
Tactical eagle eyes look back at an employee gazing out the window of Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. Scanning the environment for its next bite of food, the eagle is unaware of the shadow its majestic silhouette casts down on Lemon Creek substation and the electrical hazards within it. The employee counts 1, 2, 3…12 bald eagles on any given day. Unfortunately, every year, one eagle takes its last bite when it contacts energized electrical equipment. The good news: Today is different from the prior two de-cades thanks to wildlife protection improvements. Alaska Electric Light & Power (AEL&P) has implemented a new green approach. The fear once associated with the consequences of eagles flying above the substation has been transformed. Now, bald eagles seen through the office window are being admired for their resemblance to the beautiful snowcapped mountain backdrop found in Juneau, Alaska, U.S.
Juneau is in the Tongass National Rainforest, 93 miles (150 km) from Glacier Bay National Park. No wonder its natural beauty is stunning. It also is the perfect place to find an abundance of wildlife, which makes it more challenging for AEL&P to provide reliable and responsible electric service—a challenge shared by all electric utilities.
Nationally, about 20% of all power outages are attributed to wildlife. It is a little higher in Juneau, closer to 30%. Wildlife is a broad reference to many types of animals and birds; however, the bald eagle is AEL&P’s main concern. At least one eagle-related outage occurs every year at the Lemon Creek substation. This annual event interrupts power to 58% of the utility’s 17,023 customers and accounts for about 20% of customer-outage hours each year, a system average interruption duration index of 21 minutes.
Wildlife Safety Matters
Wildlife safety matters to electric utilities. Outage response, damaged equipment, interruption of service, wildlife fatalities and the potential for regulatory fines all add up and are detrimental to the mission of utilities. AEL&P has been updating and implementing wildlife protection plans for more than 20 years, making great strides in improvements.
Countless pieces of wildlife protection products have been used system wide to improve existing infrastructure. New infrastructure takes wildlife into consideration in the design phase prior to construction. The Avian Protection Plan Guidelines by the Avian Powerline Interaction Committee (APLIC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) serves as a resourceful basis for utility standards and planning. Wild-life protection offers social, environmental and economic benefits to utilities that support being able to provide safe, reliable, low-cost and responsible electric service. It pays to protect.