As a distribution cooperative, PEC’s primary role is to purchase electricity and operate the local distribution system that delivers it to members’ homes and businesses. But while distribution infrastructure makes up the largest portion of our system, PEC also owns 304 critical miles of high-voltage transmission lines.
“Transmission lines are the backbone of the electric grid, supplying high-voltage power to substations to be distributed throughout our communities,” said Jerry Bible, PEC director of substation and transmission maintenance.
Because transmission lines carry much higher voltage electricity, the equipment is bigger, taller, and more dangerous to work on. Whereas distribution lines are 12.5 or 25kV, the voltage coursing through transmission lines is multitudes higher — most of them are 138kV. Poles are up to 125 feet tall, and the insulators are typically five times the size of those used on distribution lines. While a standard PEC bucket truck can reach up to 65 feet high, the tallest transmission truck extends all the way to 125 feet.
Transmission equipment is critical to our operations, as these lines supply power to thousands of members. That means keeping this system going is a responsibility as big as the equipment it requires.
PEC’s dedicated team of transmission experts inspect and maintain hundreds of miles of line, replace and repair poles and equipment, and schedule tree trimming. They do “hot work” in the substations, performing duties on energized equipment to keep the power on for our members. When there is a major substation project, the transmission team builds temporary transmission facilities to keep the lights on.
The scope of that work is growing along with the population of the Texas Hill Country. PEC is proactively working to upgrade existing transmission infrastructure and build more lines and substations to ensure we can meet future demand. Earlier this year, we completed construction on our new transmission control center, a major milestone for the cooperative. Assuming control of our transmission assets allows us to make better decisions across all of our distribution and transmission operations, plus it improves the cooperative’s reliability and financial stability.
“The power professionals who work quietly behind the scenes on our transmission system are extremely dedicated to the work they do every day,” Bible said. “We always answer the call, rain or shine, day or night. Our work is not easy, and it is very dangerous, but rest assured, we will always be there for our members.”