In the world of energy, failure to prepare can have catastrophic consequences. Our founding father and king of one liners, Benjamin Franklin, once warned, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” For evidence, look no further than the February 2021 power grid failure in Texas. While Texas’s blackouts may represent a perfect storm of energy grid failure, it’s important not to wait until a piece of infrastructure fails to start thinking about how to upgrade it.
Citizens Electric Corporation (CEC) and Wabash Valley Power are planning a new transmission line to incorporate an existing radial line to a looped system. The conversion to a looped system will increase reliability and minimize downtime in the event of a power outage.
A More Reliable Plan
To close the loop, CEC and Wabash Valley Power will build a 69,000-volt transmission line between the Salem Bulk substation near Farmington and connect it to the Valley View substation near Bloomsdale. In the event of a transmission power outage, this will significantly minimize downtime, because the loop system will allow Citizens to restore power from another part of the grid.
Once the new transmission is built, CEC will add two substations to help further spread out their transmission load, increasing flexibility and reliability to approximately, 4,000 members serviced in the area. With the current radial line and existing substations, a power outage can last days or even weeks. With the new line providing power to the new substations, CEC’s members will be much closer to the nearest substation, instead of being at the end of the distribution line many miles away.
Built to Weather the Storm
Until now, CEC’s member have been fortunate to avoid major disruptions in service, but Citizens viewed the tornadoes that pass through last November as a warning. Had those tornadoes touched down just a few miles north, it could’ve compromised the radial transmission line that provides power to the area. Given that CEC’s members live in an area with frequent tornadoes, the possibility of an outage isn’t so much of an “if as a “when.”
“Restoring power on a radial transmission line is not just a matter of putting a wire back on a pole. You can’t just throw a switch and restore power now,” CEC’s Manager of Member Services, Steve Elsea said. “With the new closed loop, it will be as simple as flipping a switch, because then we can draw power from another nearby source.”
When an EF4 tornado touched down in Perry County in February 2017, its 15-mile path of destruction crossed a 138,000-volt transmission line. It took weeks to rebuild the damaged line. Fortunately, this transmission line was part of a looped system, and the affected substations experienced only a short-term outage.
Planning ahead may seem like a hassle when everything is going well, but it’s important to get out in front of any issues to improve reliability. And that’s exactly what CEC is doing.