New substation brings power to Sterling area

photo of John Frey and Sterling Sub

A new substation, which will help deliver reliable power to a 10-mile area near Sterling, North Dakota, has been added to Capital Electric Cooperative’s (CEC) system. The new substation began transforming electricity on Nov. 14, 2019. It replaces the oldest existing substation used by the co-op.

In 1965, a line crew energized the original Sterling Substation, which brought power to rural residents. This fall, a new line crew transferred power to a new location. When the old substation was de-energized, Crew Leader John Frey flipped the switch.

“My grandfather, Richard Maier worked for CEC for 35 years. He started as a line worker and worked  his way up to line superintendent before retiring in 1989. He was instrumental in bringing the old substation online, and I was instrumental in de-energizing it. That’s pretty cool,” says Frey.

The new substation is owned by Central Power Electric Cooperative, a transmission cooperative that delivers wholesale electricity to CEC from power providers, such as Basin Electric Power Cooperative and the Western Area Power Administration
(WAPA). It will play an important role in safely delivering reliable electricity to CEC’s members.

Here’s how it works. Electricity is transmitted at very high voltages and low currents to reduce heat and transmission losses. Transmission lines, which transfer electricity from the power supplier to the substation, require the highest voltage, as they
carry power the furthest. Once the electricity reaches the new Sterling Substation, it’s transformed from 43,800 volts to 7,200 volts before being transmitted along the co-op’s distribution lines, which carry the power to your home. Before the electricity reaches your home, a transformer drops it even further to a safe, useable voltage of 120/240 volts.

The new substation, which has the ability to serve five times as many members, is a major upgrade. It uses new, more reliable technology to safely deliver power to CEC’s members.

“It’s a major improvement,” says Frey. “This new substation has four circuits, which supply power to members in all directions. Power John Frey flips a switch at the old Sterling Substation and signals it’s no longer energized. Frey’s grandfather, Richard Maier, was instrumental in bringing the substation online more than 50 years ago. New substation brings power to Sterling area enters the substation from the north. Once it’s transformed, it’s sent along CEC’s distribution lines in one of three directions – north, east or south. Each direction has its own circuit. The fourth circuit is a back-up. The old substation only had one circuit. If that circuit failed or opened, power was lost in every direction. Now, an outage in one direction doesn’t automatically result
in an outage in another.”

The new substation is also much more accessible to line crews. In the past, crews had to travel one mile along an unmaintained trail to access the substation. The new substation is located much closer to the highway, making it easier to access in the event of an outage. It also offers more space for crews to safely perform necessary tasks.

“At CEC, we always think safety first,” says Operations Supervisor Rick Dressler, CEC. “When lineworkers are performing maintenance at a substation, it may or may not be energized. The new substation is definitely much safer than the old one. The increased space allows lineworkers to maneuver more safely and helps reduce the risk of injury.”

The installation of the new substation is only one example of CEC’s commitment to providing reliable power to its members. Throughout the year, lineworkers perform regular inspections and maintenance on poles, lines and transformers. Additionally, the
co-op replaces 25-miles of existing overhead line each year.

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