Why are clocks running faster than usual in Dawson?


Jul 28, 2023  Comment

How does Yukon Energy's system influence time?

Our electric clocks run on 60 Hertz (Hz), “alternating current” (ac) electricity. Alternating current refers to the fact that the current consists of pulses and 60 Hz means that 60 pulses of current flow every second. This is known as the “frequency” of our power system.

Many electric devices that are plugged into a wall socket, such as alarm clocks, ovens, and microwaves, use these pulses to count the seconds and keep time.

In other words, clocks that are plugged into a wall socket use our system frequency of 60 cycles a second as a reference for determining time.

We monitor the frequency very closely; however it is normal for the system to swing in the range of +/- 0.5 Hz.

Ultimately, maintaining frequency is all about balance. If the generators in one part of the grid are running slower, generators in other sections of the grid may need to run faster to ensure we are maintaining our frequency of 60 Hz and that we have enough electricity for all who need it.

What causes clocks to run fast or slow?

If our generators are running above 60 Hz, clocks that are plugged in will run fast over time. If our generators are running below 60 Hz, clocks will run slow over time.

How does this explain what’s happening in Dawson?

Over the last month (July 2023), Dawson has been disconnected from the main grid and its sole source of electricity has been the diesel generators. We needed to disconnect Dawson to complete upgrades at our substation in Callison. You can read more about that project here.

While the diesel generators in Dawson are designed to output 60 Hz, they sometimes run slightly above 60 Hz.

Given frequency is a very sensitive calibration, it can stray slightly over time because of regular wear and tear on the generators. While we perform regular maintenance, some of these generators are near their end-of-life and need to be replaced soon.

This is part of the reason why we will be replacing some of these units (2 of the 6) and moving them to our substation at Callison.

So, that is why Dawson residents may have noticed that clocks in Dawson have been running faster than normal recently.

We also sometimes use the diesel generators to help restore power during an outage, which is why you may have noticed your clocks running faster after an outage.

Are people in Dawson being charged more because of this?

No. People in Dawson are not being charged more for electricity because the generators are running slightly faster than 60 Hz.

Frequency determines how fast electricity travels from the source to the consumer. Electricity bills are based on electricity consumption, or how much electricity a customer uses over time.

Just because the power gets to you faster, doesn’t mean that you’re using more of it.


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