CU starts maintenance on underground-fed transformers
by By RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Mar 18, 2013 | 1459 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bart Borden, longtime electrical engineer who doubles as vice president of the Cleveland Utilities Electric Division, is more familiar than most with the gradual, deteriorating impact of time and weather on outdoor pad-mounted equipment whose sole job is to keep the lights on.

That’s why his words spoke volumes at a recent formal session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities when he offered, “Everything we do eventually has to be replaced.”

He added, “... We try to do everything we can to prevent [replacement] and to prolong that process by doing maintenance on our equipment.”

Effective Jan. 22, Cleveland Utilities launched a maintenance initiative in which a two-man crew dedicated exclusively to equipment upgrade and repair will spend the next 1 1/2 to two years physically inspecting 1,805 pad mount transformers, and 274 switch and fusing cabinets.

Routine maintenance is already a year-round endeavor by CU crews, but in this case the transformer and fusing cabinet project — which is conducted every 10 years — is aimed exclusively at electrical equipment that operates on concrete pads on the ground and which is accessible to the public. Not only are these transformers and fusing cabinets — whose size range comes in extremes from small to huge — vital in feeding electrical power to customers, they also are safety issues.

“What is so significant about this program is most of our facilities are up in the air,” according to Tom Wheeler, CU president and CEO. “But these facilities sit on the ground and they are accessible to the public ... so there is a greater safety issue. That’s why we pay so much attention to it.”

Borden agreed, and pointed out the regularly scheduled initiative would have already been under way but CU crew priorities have remained on storm repair dating back to the tornadoes of April 27, 2011, as well as March 2, 2012, and later storms that have impacted the utility’s power grid.

Borden identified the pad mount transformers as the familiar green cabinets often seen near roadways and intersections, and throughout the CU service territory. Switchgear equipment is similar though it has its own distinct functions within the CU power distribution system.

To date, the two-man crew has completed the inspection of 125 pad mount transformers and seven switch cabinets, Borden said. The encompassing project will involve “... our entire underground fed pad mounted equipment,” he noted.

“The process includes visual inspection and thermal imagery,” Borden said. “Any cabinets requiring painting will be sanded, primed and painted when temperatures allow the work. All connections will be checked, obstructions to access the cabinets will be addressed and any safety-related issues will be corrected.”

The equipment is fed by underground cables and commonly serves apartment complexes, small commercial businesses, private residences and in some cases large industries, Borden said.

In an unrelated development, Borden reported to CU board members work to replace an outdated district substation on 9th Street continues. The substation is located across from the old Cleveland Chair Co. site and adjacent to the railroad tracks. The new facility will be constructed on the south side of the existing substation. The existing structure dates back to the 1930s and 1940s.

According to Borden, it was an original part of the old Tennessee Electric Power Co. which was eventually acquired with the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The district substation work did hit a snag when the contractor, Greenstar LLC, discovered an underground fuel storage tank.

“The fuel tank dates back to 1927 and was the property of TVA,” Borden said. “We contracted the services of Terracon Environmental Consultants to conduct the liquid and soil testing, and to determine the actions needed to remove any contaminated materials.”

Terracon coordinated the environmental cleanup which included requisition of permits and documentation required in the removal and disposal of the tank and closure of the site.

“A dump truck load of sand supporting the tank had to be disposed of,” Borden explained. “It had a very small amount of contaminant.”

Substation construction has been resumed. The concrete pad where the substation will be located is 80 percent complete and fencing installation will follow. Lightning protection design has been completed and three 80-foot concrete poles have been let out for bid and awarded to Stress Crete which submitted the low bid. The massive poles will be delivered within six to eight weeks.

In other Electric Division updates by Borden:

- CU has completed work on the Peerless Road powerline rebuild project whose long series of delays date back all the way to the debilitating storms of April 27, 2011. In order to begin power grid and transmission restoration, CU was forced to use poles that had been scheduled for Peerless Road project. Another delay came on the project’s south end when CU crews had to move poles for a potential road widening by the city on Georgetown Road. Once Charter Communications and AT&T transfer their facilities to CU’s new poles, the old poles will be pulled and the longstanding project will be officially completed.

- A work order has been issued to relocate six poles on Benton Pike for the Tennessee Department of Transportation road widening project. “The Durkee Road line relocation is still being delayed by a single required easement due to legal issues with the property title,” Borden explained.

- CU crews have begun the installation of underground primary, secondary and service conductors and pad mount transformers to service Spring Creek Phase II, a residential development. The project is 90 percent complete, but faced a delay pending the removal of several large piles of dirt which prevent access by utility crews for equipment installation.

- Work is continuing with LongHorn Steakhouse off Paul Huff Parkway near the new Holiday Inn Express to provide electrical power to the construction site.

- A work order has been issued to provide electric service to the newly constructed Orbit station on Paul Huff Parkway at Exit 27. This is the site of the former BP station.