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The birds are at it again: Osprey, lightning causing Yellowknife power outages

According to the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, customers in Yellowknife have experienced an average of 6.2 outages since May 2019 compared to a historic average of 5.25 and 5.65 outages during this period.

Yellowknife residents are experiencing a slightly higher than average number of outages this summer

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation says customers in Yellowknife have experienced between five and nine power outages since May 2019. The regular average is is between 5.25 and 5.65 outages. (CBC)

Yellowknifers may have noticed they've had to reset their oven clocks more often than usual so far this summer. 

That's because the number of power outages has been slightly higher than average for this time period.

According to the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, customers in Yellowknife have experienced between five and nine outages since May, depending where in the city they're located. That's an average of 6.2 outages per customer. 

Comparatively, the average is usually between 5.25 and 5.65 outages during this period. 

The corporation said each outage this summer has lasted 16 minutes on average when calculated between shorter and longer outages.

The power corporation records the average number of outages per customer rather than the total number of outages in the city "because there's a whole bunch of partial outages" where only parts of the city are affected, according to Paul Grant, the director of corporate planning for the corporation. 

An osprey peers out from its nest built atop a pole set up by Manitoba Hydro in Victoria Beach in June 2018. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation says a large Osprey nest caused a recent power outage in Yellowknife. (Submitted by Kerry Williams)

He said about 90 per cent of the outages this summer have occurred on the transmission system, the line that connects to the hydro site. And they've been caused largely by animals and lightning. 

"We had a large osprey nest on one of our [pieces of] equipment that did cause an outage a short while ago and then occasionally trees will contact the line as well," he said.

"It is the summertime and we are susceptible to a lot more lightning." 

Grant said the corporation is trying to mitigate the impact of lightning by installing lightning arresters on the transmission line.

"Because the weather conditions are changing, we may have to see more lightning events." 

There have been years in the recent past when customers have experienced a lower than average number of power outages. 

Last year was "unusual," Grant said, where the average was only 2.17 outages per customer. And in 2015, after a turbine failed at the Snare Falls hydroelectric plant, power in Yellowknife, Detah and Behchoko was run on diesel generators resulting in a low average of 0.65 outages per customer.

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