Yellowknifers asked to conserve power as Snare Falls hydro plant goes offline

An oil sheen seen near the Snare Falls hydro facility has led to it being shut down temporarily. Past shutdowns have cost the territory an extra $40,000 per day in diesel fuel.

Oil sheen spotted near Snare Falls hydro facility has led to temporary shutdown

Yellowknifers are being asked to conserve power as the Snare Hydro system has been temporarily shut down. (Northwest Territories Power Corporation)

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) is asking customers in Yellowknife to conserve power after its Snare Falls hydroelectricity plant was taken offline Monday.

In a news release Tuesday evening, NTPC said staff saw an oil sheen in the water at Snare Falls on April 25, but an initial inspection found no oil leak at the facility and it remained in service. But on Monday, the facility was shut down for inspection again and was found to have lost oil.

According to NTPC spokesperson Doug Prendergast, "NTPC has informed the spills line that a total of approximately 82 litres of oil may have spilled."

The cause of the spill remains under investigation. How long it will take to identify the problem and make a repair is unknown, as is the cost.

'Aging infrastructure'

While the Snare Falls hydro plant is shut down, power is being generated by a diesel unit at the Jackfish generating plant.

"If electricity customers in Yellowknife reduce their energy consumption, the cost of this unplanned shutdown can be minimized," states the press release.

Prendergast said that although NTPC has enough electricity generating capacity, even with Snare Falls offline, it's more expensive to run the diesel generators at Jackfish. In 2015, a broken turbine at Snare Falls cost the N.W.T. $40,000 per day in diesel fuel costs.

"The unit will remain offline until the cause is identified and repaired," states Tuesday's news release.

Snare Falls is one of four generating facilities in the Snare River hydroelectric system that powers Yellowknife, Dettah and Behchoko.

In the news release, NTPC president and CEO Noel Voykin referred to the challenge of aging infrastructure: "NTPC has acknowledged that aging hydro infrastructure is one of our biggest challenges, resulting in increased maintenance costs and less reliability. We will work as quickly and safely as possible to return Snare Falls to service."