Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

City continues maintenance, upgrades at power plant


Tonia Copeland

These large breakers were recently replaced at the Kimball's south substation, the main substation for the city.

Recent maintenance updates at the power plant in Kimball have sparked community interest in the inner workings of the facility.

City Administrator Daniel Ortiz, Kimball power plant supervisor Lance Terrill and City of Kimball Electric Department crewman Taylor Brown took time to explain how the community is powered.

The majority of the city's power is transmitted through Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) lines, which is then transformed to more usable energy and transmitted to one of two substations in Kimball from the main substation.

The east substation is located on the eastern edge of Kimball and the local power plant is the also the west substation.

Additionally, the power plant is used as back-up generator for emergency purposes and as a supplier for MEAN, the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

Once at the secondary substations, the electricity is transformed again into even smaller, more usable voltage and transmitted to City of Kimball users.

"The old breaker is getting close to 30 years old, which is the expected life expectancy," Ortiz said.

He added that the old breakers were replaced so that when there is an event causing the breakers to trip.

The new breakers allow the city the ability to manually reroute power and minimize the number of residents affected by an event.

Crews are on call at all times for this purpose, but they also work together to ensure one another's safety as well as that of the citizenship.

"Whenever there is an outage we send a crew out to make sure there is nothing on the line, like a tree branch, which could possibly cause a fire, or something on the line that is going to be a danger," Ortiz said.

Testing as well as additional updates and repairs at the aging south substation have prevented further potential breakdowns for the city, according to Ortiz

"Pretty much most of the south substation dates back to when Kimball first built our segment of line to WAPA and started getting power from them," Ortiz continued.

Testing and engineering costs for the electric departments can get costly, Ortiz stated, but staying on top of the testing is imperative to saving more money down in the future, both at the power plant and the other substations.

Recent repairs and maintenance at the power plant have been a priority for city crews as the aging generators require continuous maintenance to remain active for MEAN.

The oldest of the generators in Kimball was made in 1950 while the Cooper, the newest and largest, was made in 1976.

MEAN mandates that any back-up system is capable of producing eight megawatts of power between June 1 and Sept. 30.

Power plants that receive capacity payments, such as Kimball does, are required to begin producing power on their own within a specified about of time to receive capacity payments.

Those plants are also required to prove to MEAN that the generators are capable of doing so before the need should arise, an URGE test.

"One of the big things they looked at during the URGE test is that it took them (MEAN) two hours to get started, and it took us half an hour," Terrill said.

Due to much of the recent maintenance, the local power plant is now producing well past that requirement.

"The power plant is rated for 9.3 megawatts," Ortiz said. "If we lost our capacity payments we would have to account for roughly about $19,000 a month."

Goals for the electric and power plant crews, six men total, is to be cross-trained to ensure that in any given event the municipality is covered.

Additional goals include adding more fuses that are used to isolate and manage incidents as well as to minimize impact to the citizenship.

"One of the things in our top 10 issues is doing more sectionalizing around the city to have smaller segments that can be isolated," Ortiz said. "Right now we are limited in how many fuses we have out there."


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