Bird on a wire: Nunavut power utility blames ravens for outages
“Sounds like it was an electrifying experience”
Blame the birds for cutting your cable during the big game.
According to the Qulliq Energy Corp., there have been 31 “bird strikes” so far this fiscal year. Such strikes can disrupt power for “small pockets of customers” in Iqaluit.
“As often seen around town, a raven will perch upon a transformer tank, which is grounded to the earth,” the director of corporate affairs at QEC, Natalie Chafe-Yuen, told Nunatsiaq News in an email Dec. 2.
“Sometimes when they take off or land, their wings accidentally make contact with the high voltage connection feeding the transformer,” she said.
That was the case Dec. 1, when residents in Iqaluit’s Plateau subdivision and downtown areas lost power during the morning.
The culprit bird was not found at the site of the blown fuse, near the Iqaluit landfill, but QEC investigators did determine that a raven had, in fact, caused the problem.
“They didn’t locate the bird yesterday. I know a lot of people were concerned about the bird,” she said.
Chafe-Yuen doesn’t know how many of the 31 birds wound up dead.
“Sometimes [investigators] go there and there’s just a bunch of feathers,” Chafe-Yuen said.
Twitter users in Iqaluit ruffled some feathers after QEC sent a message saying a raven had caused the blown fuse.
“Sounds like it was an electrifying experience,” said Iqaluit’s former mayor, Madeleine Redfern, on Twitter.
“One would think that power corps would have the technology to encase the sensitive bits in some mysterious, raven proof cover,” said Twitter user Kyle Sheppard.
QEC is, in fact, stepping up their efforts to protect power lines — and birds.
Chafe-Yuen said “wildlife protection” is being added to transformers that tend to become raven hangouts.
“Currently it has been met with good results, avoiding several outages,” she said.
Despite the raven strikes, unplanned outages are actually down since a big upgrade to its power plant in 2012, she said.
Between April 2012 and the end of Sept. 2012, the QEC said the power stayed on in Iqaluit 95.5 per cent of the time. For the same period of 2013, the power stayed on 98.8 per cent of the time.
“While Iqalummuit may have experienced a slight drop in the reliability of service during the specific period of the project upgrades, it can be attributed to planned outage time that was required to complete the work both safely and efficiently,” Chafe-Yuen said.