Improvements at AVEC Facilities in Wales

Posted: September 20, 2021

By Sheena Marrs

Summer typically means construction season for Alaska Village Electric Cooperative. However, Mother Nature missed the memo calling for warmer months.

AVEC crews and locals have reported a cold, wet season in Wales.

Residents says that it seems as if they have only had two days of summer weather the entire season. Those sentiment was echoed by AVEC employees who travelled to Wales this July to complete a list of upgrades and improvements at AVEC’s facilities.

Weather not withstanding, the facilities are exposed to unusual geographic conditions.

Situated at westernmost tip of the U.S. mainland, Wales is the closest mainland Alaska village to neighboring Russia across the Bering Strait. The Bering Sea is believed to be one of the roughest bodies of water on the planet, with thrashing waves sometimes reaching as high as 30 feet.

The sea water’s high salt concentration is absorbed into the atmosphere. High winds drive that salt to shore, accelerating the deterioration of building materials and equipment.

The lifespan of equipment is longer the further from the coast.  That could not be more visible than in Wales, where severe storms are a constant threat to the coastal town.

Tucker Evans, AVEC maintenance technician, set out to make improvements to the power plant. Galvanized grip-strut — designed to resist corrosion — replaced the existing rotting wood steps and ramp landings. In between cutting timber to build new stringers and joists, Tucker helped the crew working on mechanical upgrades.

The arrival of the crews could not have been better timed. One of the two decade-old radiators failed due to extensive corrosion just days after crew’s arrived. The crews installed 5-horsepower fan motors and mixing valves to ensure the engines operate at optimal temperatures and provide surplus heat to other buildings.  Energy efficiency is factored into every AVEC project down to the fan motors.

New coolant piping was painted with zinc-rich primer for added protection.

The bulk fuel tank farm also received attention with 15,000 gallons of fuel capacity was added. Workers replaced two condemned fuel tanks were replaced with repurposed tanks from the recently decommissioned tank farm in Mt. Village. AVEC sent the tanks via barge to Tin City last year, then Wales residents transported via land.

Weather has a profound influence on travel between the two communities. Although Tin City and Wales are at sea-level the road that connects them runs through Cape Mountain, where snow and ice are often present until mid-July. To safely haul the large, heavy load between the two communities, drivers had to wait until late into the construction season to make the delivery.

After more than 30 days in the field, the projects are taking shape.  Just as the barge patiently waits offshore for good weather to fill the new fuel tanks, crews wait on good weather to receive additional parts to finalize their work.