By Sydney Yalshevec

City Council encouraged to take action on substation


Image Courtesy of Michael Mansour

The breaker at the south substation.

Michael Mansour, Senior Electrical Engineer with Exponential Engineering Company out of Fort Collins, was at the city council meeting Tuesday, February 4, to explain the need of new equipment in the south substation that provides electricity to Kimball.

Mansour has worked with Exponential Engineering for many years and has worked with Kimball, doing inspections of the electrical facilities. Upon Kimball's most recent inspection Mansour came across things that need immediate attention at the south substation.

Mansour gave a brief rundown of how the city gained power. He explained that the power is produced at low voltage it then goes through a transformer to turn it into high voltage power that that allows the power to travel long distances to cities. After that it goes through another transformer and through a breaker to lower the voltage to a point that it can be used in homes.

It is important to update equipment and to be prepared for those updates. Kimball has a problem that needs attention right away, according to Mansour.

"Our biggest problem is, in the south substation, the station is 30 years old and the equipment is 30 years old. In the utility business, we consider the life of everything, every piece of equipment to be 30 years," Mansour said.

Mansour showed city council pictures of the equipment that needs to be replaced and also gave them an estimated cost for the top priority project.

At the substation there is a transformer that changes the power voltage from WAPA. The transformer is monitored by relays that can detect possible problems with the transformer. If there is a problem the relay can cut the transformer off from the breaker, therefore, stopping any damage that might be done to the breaker.

"We are recommending that all the relays be replaced at the south substation. All the boxes are electro mechanical relays they have little tiny screws that have to be adjusted and maintained yearly, and any dust in those relays can cause problems. We are recommending to replace all those boxes with the state of the art technology micro processor relay. This one new relay does everything that the whole stack of six old relays did combined," Mansour said.

The other advantage to the new relays is that they require much less maintenance than the older relays. The new relays cost around $2,500.

The other problem at the south substation that was addressed was the breaker.

The current breaker is 30 years old, and Mansour said that it is very important that it is replaced soon.

"This is a breaker. This protects the loop of power around the city. This is 30 years old, and it's an oil breaker. It's a very old technology. This has a problem. It's starting to fail slowly. Basically, we are recommending that you replace the breaker. If it fails you have no power," Mansour said.

If the breaker were to rupture or break it would take 14 to 18 weeks to get a new breaker. This would mean a lack of power for that amount of time.

Mansour recommended a solution to the problem: to get two new breakers instead of just one. He stressed that it was not a reliable system having only one breaker.

"Basically what we are recommending is, instead of taking an outage while replacing the breaker, we are recommending that you create two feeds. We would build another area for a second breaker and have two breakers. We would divide the loop around the city into two parts. One breaker feeds one half and the other breaker feeds another half. We can tie them together if we need to. What it does is it adds to the reliability of your system. So if the one breaker goes out, then the lines can be tied together again and the working breaker will be able to feed the whole city," Mansour said.

The plan would be for the second breaker to be installed and the power to be switched over from the old breaker to the new while the old breaker gets replaced. This would mean that the city would only have to worry about getting generated power for one to two days instead of 10 to 16 days, if the breaker was getting replaced with no extra breaker being present.

The cost for the updates to the south substation are estimated to be $725,000. Mansour urged the city to do everything in their power to update the systems and equipment as soon as possible because with the equipment being so old an outage is not out of the realm of possibilities.

"Basically, there is a problem in the south substation and that is a number one priority, and, unfortunately, it is not cheap," Mansour said. "The entire system depends on this. If something happens, you're done."


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