Auto transfer switch promotes reliability at University of Mary

photo of auto transfer switch

One of Capital Electric Cooperative’s (CEC) largest accounts has received a major upgrade to its power supply.

In December, CEC lineworkers installed an automatic transfer switch near the University of Mary, which will provide the University with an alternate supply of electricity in the event of a power outage.

Typically installed at locations where access to power is critical, such as hospitals or airports, automatic transfer switches are devices that automatically transfer a power supply from its primary source to a backup source when it senses a failure or
outage. This is the first automatic transfer switch on CEC’s system.

CEC Operations Manager Rick Dressler says the University, which is located at the convergence of two power sources, was the best location for the co-op to install this technology.

“The switch receives power from two different substations, and the chance of losing power to both substations at the same time is incredibly slim,” says Dressler. “In the event of a loss of power from one substation, the automatic transfer switch would automatically switch to the backup power source. Without the switch, an outage could cause the University to lose power for 45 minutes or more, while crews work to identify a problem and transfer power from a different source. With this switch, the University would only lose power for three seconds.”

In addition to improving redundancy to the school, the automatic transfer switch connects to the co-op’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which allows the co-op to gather real-time data from this convergence of power.

“It benefits us to know the switch is doing what its supposed to be doing when its supposed to be doing it,” says Greg Owen, CEC Manager of Engineering Services. “The SCADA system tells us what source is feeding the college. It provides a history of the events, so we can look back in time and correlate those events to other things that may have happened.” This project has been on CEC’s radar for several years. After researching equipment and receiving approval from CEC’s Board of Directors, operations and engineering staff went to work.

“A lot of time and effort went into this project,” says Dressler. “Prior to installing the switch, we installed two miles of underground cable. Next, our system supervisor, Jeff Holzer, created a switching procedure to reroute power, ensuring the school
would not be without electricity during the installation.”

Seasonally warm temperatures allowed line crews to install the switch in December. After digging a hole, lineworkers placed a fiberglass box pad, the automatic transfer switch and a cover at the site. Then, they connected 15 underground cables to the switch.

The installation of this automatic transfer switch is one of many steps the cooperative has taken to make its infrastructure smarter and more reliable.

“We are excited to take the next step in building a future, self-healing electrical system,” says CEC

General Manager Paul Fitterer. “The University of Mary is the perfect location for our first automatic transfer switch, which will add redundancy to support the school’s diverse energy needs.”

By increasing reliability to the school, CEC is supporting the University in its mission to serve the religious, academic and cultural needs of the people in this region and beyond.

"Reliable electric power is essential for providing academic services as well as meeting the basic needs of the vibrant 24/7 University community. The University is excited about the installation of the automatic transfer switch and the redundancy that this will provide for our community,” says University of Mary Director of Physical Plant Luke Seidling.

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