Reservoirs low due to hydro power

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I'm writing in response to Jon Torrella's Nov. 30 letter regarding water levels in the lakes that supply Juneau's hydro plants.

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Torrella is correct; rainfall in Juneau was above normal this spring and summer. But the water level in our reservoirs depends both on how much water flows in from precipitation and how much is taken out for power production.

Electric demands in Juneau this year were so great, and so much water was taken out of the lakes for hydro generation, that even the above-average precipitation wasn't enough to fill the lakes. In other words, the demand for electricity in Juneau has risen to the point that we have outgrown Snettisham.

Unless we have very wet years, we won't have enough hydro capacity to meet the town's demand for electric energy and will have to generate with diesel fuel to supplement our hydro generation.

This increased demand is not due to power sales to the Greens Creek Mine. Hydro power is generated for Greens Creek only when the reservoirs are projected to completely fill and spill. Since we are currently in a hydro shortage, no power is being sold to Greens Creek at this time.

We will probably need some diesel generation each winter until the Lake Dorothy hydro project is completed in late 2009. Until then, energy conservation will be the best way to reduce individual energy bills, and the community's need for expensive diesel generation.

For more information on this or other issues, please visit the Alaska Electric Light & Power Web site at

Scott Willis

General engineer, Alaska Electric Light & Power


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