Reliability

PEC’s substation upgrades: a perpetual reliability machine

Substation upgrades match area growth, ensure reliability

On a quiet March morning, in the substation tucked away on FM 2770 in Buda, a transformer the size of a small school bus hunkered silently beneath the sky.

An air of hushed purpose fell as technicians in hardhats and PEC blue circled the enormous machine, completing last checks on it and the surrounding equipment. The transformer, a brand-new 46.7 megavolt-amp (MVA) device able to provide energy to half of the homes and businesses in Buda, had never been powered up before.

The new transformer in the Buda substation.
Energizing a new transformer, like this 46.7 MVA device that will power half of the homes and businesses in Buda, is a delicate process, requiring months of planning and tests.

The crew lead disappeared into the substation’s control house to close the final circuit-switcher. For a long moment, there was nothing. Then a loud bang rang out like a shot across the substation, and, as power flooded into it, the transformer hummed loudly to life.

Energizing the new transformer in Buda, which is twice the size of the transformer it replaced and powers twice as many homes and businesses, was just a single step in a multi-stage process. The crew that completed the upgrade would return the next week to begin upgrades on the substation’s second transformer. The entire project, which includes a new control house completed earlier this year, is slated to be finished in July.

Substation maintenance and upgrades are unending at PEC: Even as one group energized the Buda substation, another is planning work at substations in Manchaca and Lakeway. We’re poised to upgrade nine substations in the next year alone, projects made necessary by increased electric demand driven by the Hill Country’s rapid growth. Even when we make upgrades, though, providing continuous power is a top priority.

“Our members don’t experience power interruptions when we make these upgrades,” PEC Substation & Transmission Maintenance Director Jerry Bible said. “We transfer the load completely off the station and send it to adjacent substations.” In this way, power service remains uninterrupted while, tucked away behind high walls on remote country roads, our technicians continually and quietly contribute to the reliability our members depend on.

A safety briefing.
The technicians proceed carefully, briefing before and after each step. Supervisor Ron Moyer (far right) runs over safety information with (from left) PEC Journeyworker Josh Stanford, PEC Lineworker Apprentice 4 Sinjin Horton, PEC Journeyworker Charley Goines, PEC Substation Electrician 2 Chris Mayes and PEC Substation Electrician 3 Freddie Martinez.

“Our relay techs, the folks working in and on substations, are a big part of the heartbeat of the cooperative,” Bible said. “If we don’t get the energy out, there’s nothing on the lines.”

As the 60-hertz hum of the energized transformer flooded the Buda substation, everyone circled up for the next safety briefing. There was, as always, more to do. The day was just beginning.