ST. MARYS — The Midwest Electric board of trustees has approved a four-year $11.8 million work plan to further improve power reliability. Projects include overhead line rebuilds, underground line replacement in six area subdivisions, substation upgrades, and a new distribution automation system to significantly reduce outages by remotely transferring load between substations.

The average Midwest Electric member already enjoys power available 99.97 percent of the time, and this 2017 – 2020 work plan will further strengthen the cooperative’s reliability. Prior to this work plan, Midwest Electric has invested $4,900 per member in the distribution system, or $30,000 per mile of line. Midwest Electric has 1,600 miles of distribution line in west central Ohio.

Scada – distribution automation

The Supervisory Control and Distribution Automation (SCADA) project has the highest individual price tag at $2.75 million. But it also will lead to the greatest reliability improvements. This project is expected to start in 2018 and require a few years to complete.

“SCADA will reduce the average number of minutes each member is without power by using technology to remotely transfer load between substations during transmission power supply outages or other major outages,” said Paul Rogers, manager of engineering and operations.

SCADA will feature either a radio or cellular communications system to remotely open and close reclosers in order to change the power supply feed to a substation. For example, if one substation is without power due to the transmission supply line, the cooperative could from its office activate nearby reclosers and “back feed” the substation from another substation. The goal is to make this switching capability available system-wide to 17 Midwest Electric substations and metering points.

A conservative target is for SCADA to reduce major outage minutes by 30 percent.

The primary components of a SCADA system are the communications equipment, line reclosers, monitoring equipment in the substations and office computer equipment.

Line rebuilds

Over the next four years, the cooperative will put $1.7 million into rebuilding 34 miles of single-phase overhead power line in the Chickasaw, Lake, Moulton, Kossuth and Noble substation areas. This project involves replacing 60-plus year old copper wire with aluminum. At the end of this work plan, the cooperative will have just 30 miles of copper lines remaining.

The rebuilds will occur on 35 different roads, including Salem Noble; Maier Barber; Countyline; River; Glynwood; State Routes 25A, 66, 66A, 67, 116, 197; Deepcut; and many others.

Also, nine miles of three phase lines will be rebuilt in the Rockford and St. Henry areas for $1.2 million.

Near Rockford, three phase lines will be rebuilt along Mercer Van Wert County Line Road and also Township Line Road to improve area reliability as well as strengthen the backfeed capabilities with the Jonestown and Spencerville metering points.

Near St. Henry, three phase lines along Carthagena, Siegrist Jutte, and S.R. 118 will be rebuilt in order to provide backup between the St. Henry substation and Coldwater metering point.

Subdivision underground lines

More than 10 miles of underground primary lines will be replaced in six residential subdivisions: Highland Lakes, Southmoor Shores, Meadowbrook, Walter Street, Beverly Hills, and Pleasant View. The procedure involves boring in new conduit and pulling new wire through the conduit. Affected members will be notified prior to the work starting.

Other Upgrades

Another $3.2 million will go towards general improvements: poles and wire for new services; replacing security lights; replacing poles; transformers; reclosers; voltage regulators; and more.

The cooperative will put $1 million into upgrading the Coldwater, Macedon and Marathon substations. Coldwater and Macedon will each be upgraded from six megaWatts (mW) to 10 mW. This capacity improvement will increase backfeed capabilities between the two locations.

A spare transformer will be purchased for the Marathon substation (near St. Anthony and Rauh roads in western Mercer County), which will also see 2.5 miles of transmission line rebuilt.

Tree trimming and pole testing

Other reliability projects, in addition to the work plan, are tree trimming and pole testing.

Tree trimming is conducted on a five-year cycle to minimize power outages and blinking lights. Trees and branches that contact power lines are a leading cause of power problems.

Pole testing is done on a 10-year cycle throughout our service area to ensure their sturdiness.

Member focus

“As a rural, member-owned cooperative, we invest more in our distribution system per customer than investor-owned utilities. Plus, our member-owners earn a return on that investment in the form of patronage capital payments,” said Manager/CEO Rick Gerdeman.

Midwest Electric is the customer-owned electric power cooperative for 11,000 homes, farms and businesses in Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Van Wert, Darke, Putnam and Shelby counties.