Outage’s cause a mystery: PUD substation had seen ‘major work done’

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 1/17/17

The cause of a power outage that left 3,000 Port Ludlow customers in the cold for 12 hours Wednesday, Jan. 11 still is being assessed by the Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD).

The …

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Outage’s cause a mystery: PUD substation had seen ‘major work done’

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The cause of a power outage that left 3,000 Port Ludlow customers in the cold for 12 hours Wednesday, Jan. 11 still is being assessed by the Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD).

The outage was first reported at 8:30 a.m.; power was officially restored by 8:30 p.m.

Jim Parker, general manager of the PUD, touted the work his assistant general manager, Kevin Streett, had done well before the fire at the Port Ludlow substation on Beaver Valley Road (State Route 19), which took out power for close to 3,000 customers.

“The Port Ludlow substation was quite old when we purchased the assets from Puget Sound Energy in 2013,” Parker said. “One of the first things Kevin did was to replace its regulators, fuses and reclosers.”

Parker reported that the transformer had also been “thoroughly tested and vetted” by professional engineers because of concerns about its age and operating parameters.

With “some major work,” including upgrades and replacements of most of the substation’s components, it appears the PUD extended the substation’s life, Parker said, noting that the PUD has purchased equipment to monitor the substation’s performance, connecting it to a remote monitoring and control system.

IRONDALE SUBSTATION

The PUD had likewise purchased and begun installation of a new transformer at its Irondale substation in anticipation of any major problems with the Port Ludlow station, as well as to accommodate future system growth, he said.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past three years just on the Port Ludlow substation,” Parker said. “We also spent close to $1 million on a 2013 upgrade to the distribution lines to Port Ludlow, and have balanced their distribution loads, all to make the system more robust and flexible.”

Parker doesn’t have exact costs for the Jan. 11 power outage, but he estimates that the actual equipment and material costs could run as much as $50,000.

“A regulator itself is around $20,000,” Parker said. “Our crews were working on extended overtime to get everyone back in power, plus we’ll have experts coming in to evaluate the cause of the incident and to do cleanup.”

As of Friday, Jan. 13, that cause remained unknown. The voltage regulator that failed was 3 years old, Parker said, and while it did catch fire, he deemed it a brief culmination of the malfunction.

“The regulator is designed to pop its lid, rather than exploding when it fails,” Parker said. “The substation reclosers were remotely opened from our dispatch center at Four Corners, based on alarms coming into dispatch, until crews could arrive and make assessments.”

Parker cited the PUD’s 24/7 remote monitoring as further evidence of how seriously it takes substation maintenance, especially given “the ramifications of a failure.”

With extra regulators on hand, the PUD was able to replace the damaged part, but only after its staff conducted diagnostics on the other regulators and the transformer itself.

“Once it was diagnosed that we would have to replace the regulator, and do a complete checkup of the transformer and substation equipment, before putting them back online, we decided to start moving that load to our other substations,” Parker said. “In summertime, this would be relatively easy, as there is little load on the system, but in the winter, particularly this winter, the system is heavily loaded.”

DRAW ON SYSTEM

Parker explained that PUD crews started in the north and slowly moved south, opening a section in all directions, then connecting to the live part of the system.

“Because of the tremendous draw on the system when you put customers back on – all of their heaters, hot water and other appliances are turned on at once. We can only do a small section at a time, without overloading the system,” Parker said.

Had power not been restored by the day’s end, the PUD was ready to rent a mobile generator and transformer for the Paradise Bay, Shine and possibly even South Bay areas, he said.

“We were looking at moving our new transformer from Irondale to Port Ludlow, although that would have required cranes and road clearances, given its size,” Parker said. “Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.”

Anyone with lingering power issues should call the Jefferson County PUD at 385-5800. Outage’s cause a mystery

PUD substation had seen ‘major work done’ before outage

Kirk Boxleitner

kboxleitner@ptleader.com

The cause of a power outage that left 3,000 Port Ludlow customers in the cold for 12 hours Wednesday, Jan. 11 still is being assessed by the Jefferson County Public Utility District (PUD).

The outage was first reported at 8:30 a.m.; power was officially restored by 8:30 p.m.

Jim Parker, general manager of the PUD, touted the work his assistant general manager, Kevin Streett, had done well before the fire at the Port Ludlow substation on Beaver Valley Road (State Route 19), which took out power for close to 3,000 customers.

“The Port Ludlow substation was quite old when we purchased the assets from Puget Sound Energy in 2013,” Parker said. “One of the first things Kevin did was to replace its regulators, fuses and reclosers.”

Parker reported that the transformer had also been “thoroughly tested and vetted” by professional engineers because of concerns about its age and operating parameters.

With “some major work,” including upgrades and replacements of most of the substation’s components, it appears the PUD extended the substation’s life, Parker said, noting that the PUD has purchased equipment to monitor the substation’s performance, connecting it to a remote monitoring and control system.

IRONDALE SUBSTATION

The PUD had likewise purchased and begun installation of a new transformer at its Irondale substation in anticipation of any major problems with the Port Ludlow station, as well as to accommodate future system growth, he said.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past three years just on the Port Ludlow substation,” Parker said. “We also spent close to $1 million on a 2013 upgrade to the distribution lines to Port Ludlow, and have balanced their distribution loads, all to make the system more robust and flexible.”

Parker doesn’t have exact costs for the Jan. 11 power outage, but he estimates that the actual equipment and material costs could run as much as $50,000.

“A regulator itself is around $20,000,” Parker said. “Our crews were working on extended overtime to get everyone back in power, plus we’ll have experts coming in to evaluate the cause of the incident and to do cleanup.”

As of Friday, Jan. 13, that cause remained unknown. The voltage regulator that failed was 3 years old, Parker said, and while it did catch fire, he deemed it a brief culmination of the malfunction.

“The regulator is designed to pop its lid, rather than exploding when it fails,” Parker said. “The substation reclosers were remotely opened from our dispatch center at Four Corners, based on alarms coming into dispatch, until crews could arrive and make assessments.”

Parker cited the PUD’s 24/7 remote monitoring as further evidence of how seriously it takes substation maintenance, especially given “the ramifications of a failure.”

With extra regulators on hand, the PUD was able to replace the damaged part, but only after its staff conducted diagnostics on the other regulators and the transformer itself.

“Once it was diagnosed that we would have to replace the regulator, and do a complete checkup of the transformer and substation equipment, before putting them back online, we decided to start moving that load to our other substations,” Parker said. “In summertime, this would be relatively easy, as there is little load on the system, but in the winter, particularly this winter, the system is heavily loaded.”

DRAW ON SYSTEM

Parker explained that PUD crews started in the north and slowly moved south, opening a section in all directions, then connecting to the live part of the system.

“Because of the tremendous draw on the system when you put customers back on – all of their heaters, hot water and other appliances are turned on at once. We can only do a small section at a time, without overloading the system,” Parker said.

Had power not been restored by the day’s end, the PUD was ready to rent a mobile generator and transformer for the Paradise Bay, Shine and possibly even South Bay areas, he said.

“We were looking at moving our new transformer from Irondale to Port Ludlow, although that would have required cranes and road clearances, given its size,” Parker said. “Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.”

Anyone with lingering power issues should call the Jefferson County PUD at 385-5800.

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