Steve Cannon: Extreme Environment Lineman

Aug. 4, 2011
Steve Cannon works in one of the harshest environments in the United States: Alaska.

Steve Cannon works in one of the harshest environments in the United States: Alaska. His utility, Chugach Electric Association, is headquartered in Anchorage and serves more than 69,000 metered retail locations in a service territory that extends from Anchorage to the northern Kenai Peninsula, and from Whittier on Prince William Sound to Tyonek on the west side of Cook Inlet.

“Alaska is one of the rare places on the earth where one can experience up to 90°F and down to -60°F in the same year,” Cannon said. Cannon is a substation lineman at Chugach and will be presenting a session at the 2011 Finepoint Circuit Breaker Test & Maintenance Training Conference on Oct. 3-7 in Jackson, Mississippi. His session, “Timing Tests on Circuit Switchers,” will share his experience from maintenance of circuit switchers in Alaska.

"Little testing is done on these devices but they are integral to the reliability of our electrical system. I am taking a device used for testing the integrity of circuit breakers and applying these methods to circuit switches to help determine the condition they are in," Cannon said.

The device tests the timing of the operation and prints the results in a graph, so the user can interpret the condition of the coils, bearing lubrication, and auxiliary contacts. These tests are providing a basis for the device's operation in summer conditions and will be compared to the operation in the winter to observe what effect the cold has on this equipment.

“Alaska’s weather puts great strain on outside equipment and lets us really see what these breakers can take,” Cannon said. “Chugach is a great testing area. They use a wide variety of breakers with different brands to different voltages from different eras. This diversity provides us with an extensive library of knowledge.”

Cannon has been substation lineman at Chugach for more than four years, but has been in Alaska since before graduating from college. Before becoming a lineman, he had worked at Matanuska Electric Association for three “construction seasons” as an engineering technician. “I soon realized that I enjoyed working outside better than in the office so I applied to the IBEW lineman apprentice program,” Cannon said. “After gaining my Journeyman Lineman ticket, I took a job with Chugach Electric.”

Born in Okinawa, Japan where his father was in the military but raised mostly in Texas, he started getting interested in power generation when he visited massive power plants where his dad worked. So he went to Texas A&M to study electrical engineering. His family moved to Alaska during that time, so he eventually followed by transferring to the University of Alaska where he studied civil engineering.

His enthusiasm for field work translates to the classroom as he emphasizes the importance of preventing outages. “With a lack of funding, people, and time, it is becoming more important to find problems with circuit breakers to prevent outages before those outages find you,” he said. .

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