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Vandalia’s journey to a New Substation

Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2024 at 10:52 pm

By Brandie Gay

On April 6, 2020, a Vandalia resident cut a tree down on the northeast side of town. That massive tree landed on the power lines and caused a high fault amp current, which resulted in the Vandalia substation fire.

The city lost power for approximately 12 hours. The northeast side of town was out for even longer.

Without the support of Central Electric and their mobile substation and Consolidated Electrics manpower, the city would have been out of power for a lot longer.

At that time, Central Electric proposed to construct a new substation, along with installing two new transformers and new feeder reclosers. With this agreement, the city would also be transferring ownership of the 69kv transmission line. This would be a cost sharing agreement for the Vandalia substation.

Central Electric expects the substation to cost between $2.65 – $3.15 million. If the city were to rebuild the substation itself, it would cost between $2.5 – $3 million.

With the transferring of the 69kv Line, the city’s cost would only be $1,2 million. The transmission line carries electricity at voltages of 69kv or greater and is used to transmit electric power over relatively long distances, from a central generating station to main substations.

Because the City of Vandalia Electric Department does not have the training or equipment, the city pays Central Electric to repair and maintain the transmission line that carries the electricity to the city. Central Electric controls the operation of the 69kv line and can turn it off at any time if we have trouble.

The Electric Department maintains the distribution lines, which carries electricity at lower voltages of 2.4kv to 4.16kv and is used to distribute power drawn from high-voltage transmission systems to end-use customers.

On Dec. 8, 2020, the city council approved to convey ownership of a new substation and also transfer ownership of its 69KV line, to Central Electric.

Before the substation fire in 2020, staff had started working on some preliminary plans to upgrade the city’s electrical system.

It still needs to convert the remaining circuits from 2400 Delta to 4160Y. After the substation fire, staff felt that it would be best to put this project on hold until after the substation was completed.

Although these upgrades have been put on hold, the city needs to upgrade one of the circuits before the substation is completed.

Before the new substation can be energized, circuit 12 needs to be completely converted from 2400 delta to 4160 volts.

Several years ago, part of this circuit was converted to 4160 volts along with other areas of the electric grid. The long-range goal of the city is to convert all circuits to 4160 volts.

It has been banking money for many years for this project in the Capital Improvements Fund, Electric 102 Conversion.

The city is recommending using some of those funds to pay for this project. The current balance of the Electric 102 Conversion fund is $860,060.65.

The Board of Aldermen approved Sellenriek Energy LLC to complete the conversion of circuit 12 from 2400 delta to 4160 volts at a cost of $87,264.06. Sellenriek is working on the conversion at this time.

On April 3, the contractors and the city officials and electric employees toured the new substation. The substation is energized and awaiting the conversion of circuit 12.