Washington to upgrade electric grids

Published 8:03 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014

Washington Utilities Operations is scheduled to have several upgrades in the upcoming fiscal year. The city is expected to pay $1.175 million dollars in new line construction, maintenance and meter service.

The power line construction is scheduled on the N.C. Highway 32, along with 2nd and 5th street feeder stations. The cost for those power lines is expected to be $625,000 and does not have a set date for construction.

“The big ones we are looking at are on 2nd and 5th street we talked about in the budget session,” Keith Hardt, director of electric utilities operations, said. “Those are the main feeders that feed the main central business district.”

There is currently 400 miles of electric lines on the Washington grid, and the power lines have a life expectancy of 40 years. According to Hardt, the city does do replacements every year, but can’t replace every mile of line at once because of budget restraints.

Many of the electric facilities in Washington were built between 20 and 50 years ago according to Hardt and he says it is important to start replacing those in a systematic way.

“We’ve got areas that are a single power line that feeds an area and if we have a break, the entire area is without power,” Hardt said. “We try and build redundancy in the system, the whole system is built that way. If a pole is hit, I can isolate it within a couple hundred feet and hopefully get the majority of the customers back on.”

Another undertaking in the new budget is going to be the main substation feeder rebuild, which is expected to be $250,000.

One project that was put off for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is the Clarks Neck Road upgrade near Grimesland Bridge. Hardt said that it is a long-term project and they have been doing some preliminary work in that area.

“If something failed out there, all those customers would be out until the fix was complete,” Hardt said. “We have to assess how many materials we need and then figure out how long it will take to fix.”

Clarks Neck Road according to Hardt has been rebuilt in the last 10 years and is a lot stronger than what is at N.C. Highway 32 and he wanted to prioritize which grid needs to fixed this fiscal year.

“Councilman Pitt asked me which one is my most important one and that is the 5th street 2nd street one,” Hardt said. “For two reasons, one access and two the density of customers it serves.”

According to Hardt, most of these projects are routine and are done every year.

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