Flawed electrical connections lead to power outages | AspenTimes.com

Flawed electrical connections lead to power outages

A hidden and ongoing problem caused last week’s power outage in downtown Aspen.

The director of the Aspen utilities department said a faulty splice connection knocked out power on blocks of businesses for 20 minutes Thursday, and other bad connections exist throughout town that haven’t been found yet.

The connectors have been the bane of city workers for years, said Phil Overeynder. In the late 1980s and early ’90s the department contended with a rash of failures due to the connectors and began replacing them.

Although 30 were replaced, 10 of the weak links remain. This might not be such a problem if the utility department knew exactly where they are.

“They never kept track of where these splicers were, because they didn’t anticipate a problem,” Overeynder said.

The connectors are usually buried in the ground near transformers. The connector that failed last Thursday was buried behind Little Ollie’s. While workers were able to restore power to the rest of the commercial core within 20 minutes, it took another hour to reroute power to the block where the connector failed.

“Wherever they’re installed, we have problems with them, and they’re 25 to 30 years old now,” Overeynder said. “The real issue is knowing where they are in a precise enough location to dig them up and replace them, one at a time.”

The utility department is working to map the rest of the faulty connectors. The process involves sending out a signal through the entire power grid that locates each splice under the ground.

“We apologize for inconveniencing people,” Overeynder said, “but we should have all of these out in a year.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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