Substation upgrade is on

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Washington Electric General Manager Jack Bragg explains Wednesday how the current Marietta substation for the Washington Electric Cooperative will become obsolete with the upgrades AEP is making to its transmission lines.

With the AEP transmission line upgrades occurring across Washington and Noble counties, upgrades must also occur for power to still reach rural homes.

“AEP is our transmission company delivering power to our substations,” explained Washington Electric Cooperative General Manager Jack Bragg. “So as a consequence of their upgrades we needed to upgrade our substations to accept the new, higher voltage.”

John Buckley, warehouse and operations manager, said he has seen what happens when a bad storm blows through rural parts of the counties and takes out the power.

“With that derecho a couple years ago people were pretty mad and had every right to be when they were without power for two weeks,” he said.

“Our stuff is going to be obsolete, plus it’s ancient anyway and less reliable.”

The upgrades should lead to fewer outages and shorter outages for customers.

Reliability is why Bragg said he is excited for the upgrades, though the price tag per replaced substation will fall on the cooperative to the tune of $2 million to $2.5 million per new substation, of which four are being replaced.

“We borrow that money from the U.S. (Department of Agriculture) Rural Utility Service,” he explained. “And with a low-interest rate I see it as it’s like buying a house, you don’t pay for the whole thing up front and you plan to live there past the mortgage. This is truly an investment in a 40-to-50-year asset.”

Currently, under construction this year is the South Olive substation located in Noble County. Next year, depending on the construction plans for AEP’s upgrade for redundancy and higher reliability, both the Marietta and Rinard Mills substations should be underway. The final substation to see an upgrade would be the Dart substation in either late 2020 or early 2021.

“South Olive is on tap to be energized by the end of September,” Bragg explained. “That’s one that had to be fully removed and rebuilt on the same site so right now Ball Hollow is distributing power to those customers while it’s being built.”

But when that changeover happens with the complete station, Bragg said no disruption of service should occur.

“If anything it would be a second, a blip, but nothing more,” he said. “Really there’s so much preplanning and work that goes into these that it shouldn’t affect the service of the 1,743 miles of distribution lines we provide. And it will increase our utility performance by 20 percent–that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for this entity.”

By the numbers

Substation/meters served:

¯ Ball Hollow: 1,167.

¯ South Olive: 1,100.

¯ Rinard Mills: 1,303.

¯ Marietta/Highland Ridge: 819.

¯ Watertown: 1,070.

¯ Sarahsville: 1,587.

¯ Bartlett: 806.

¯ Dart: 1,050.

Metering points/meters served:

¯ Fly: 578.

¯ Beverly: 99

¯ Churchtown: 686.

Total meters served: 10,265.

Source: Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc.