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Scammers threaten disconnection

One of the scams in use around the country – including in Alaska – is to call people up and threaten that their electric service will be disconnected immediately if a supposed past-due bill isn’t paid. The goal of the scammers is to obtain credit card or other financial information. Chugach does not do business this way. Before service is disconnected for non-payment, Chugach follows steps laid out in its tariff. Those steps include advance notification. Chugach also does not take credit card payments directly, but instead refers customers wishing to pay by credit card to a third-party payment service. Customers who receive a call demanding payment to avoid an immediate disconnect should hang up, call Chugach to check the status of their account and report the incident to the police (online reporting is available in Anchorage at muni.org/apd).

Injections extend cable life

Underground cable is electrically insulated by a dense poly material that surrounds the conductor at the center of the cable. Over time, the insulation begins to break down and develops tiny cracks that retain moisture. The effect is called "treeing", because when a cross-section of the cable is examined under a microscope in the laboratory the cracks in the insulation resemble leafless trees.

If left untreated, the cable will eventually lose its ability to contain the flow of power through the conductor. The resulting fault will de-energize the cable and cause an outage for the customers it serves.

Splicing the cable can repair the immediate area of the fault and allow the restoration of service, but it does not guarantee that a similar problem won’t happen again.

Replacing the cable can fix the problem, but it’s costly and intrusive in established neighborhoods. For many cables that have been in the ground for decades, there’s another way to address the problem.

A process called "cable injection" provides a cost-effective alternative to replacements. Working from transformer-to-transformer, a crew will install a vacuum device at one end of a section of de-energized cable and a pressurized bottle of silicone-based fluid at the other. Over the course of time ranging from hours to days, the fluid will be slowly drawn through the cable, filling cracks in the insulating material along the way. When the fluid arrives at the end of the segment, the vacuum bottle is removed and the cable sealed. The pressure bottle is left on for an additional two months to soak the cable and repair the trees. Injections can add decades of life to underground cable.

Chugach plans to do cable injection projects in about two dozen neighborhoods in 2014.

Cable injections are not always possible. Sometimes the cables have other deficiencies or splices that prevent the flow of the fluid. In those cases, a cable replacement is scheduled. Chugach plans cable replacement projects in five neighborhoods in 2014. Chugach uses cable-in-conduit for replacements in the hopes that in the future faulty cable can be drawn out of -- and into – the conduit, preventing the need to dig through neighborhoods.