PORT TOWNSEND — An expansion of the Irondale Substation is expected to be completed by the end of this year after Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners awarded a contract to Michels Corp. of Tumwater.
Commissioners unanimously approved a $1.17 million contract with Michels, an electrical infrastructure specialist and the low bidder of the two that responded to a call for bids, on Tuesday.
The total project cost is estimated at $3.5 million. The $1.17 million contract awarded was for labor to install the equipment and complete the project.
The work is scheduled to be completed within construction windows driven by load and the need to reroute power. The tentative start date is Aug. 28, with a completion date of Dec. 22.
When completed, the substation will allow the PUD to back up the Hastings, Kearney, Chimacum, Quilcene and Port Ludlow substations except during the peak loading days during the winter.
Funding for the capital budget expense is available within the 2018 approved budget, staff members said.
According to Kevin Streett, PUD assistant general manager, planning for the project began in 2013. He’s been amassing parts to complete the project, including a $500,000 transformer purchased in 2015.
“The idea was to spread the cost of the project out over a number of years so we could fund it out of cash reserves,” Streett said.
When finished, the PUD will double the capacity of the Irondale Substation, allowing it to provide up to 40 megawatts of power at peak loads.
As a point of reference, at noon at July 18, all of Port Townsend, excluding the paper mill, used only 9 megawatts of power. This time of year is typically the lowest for power consumption in the county, while winter months generate the highest power consumption.
Streett said work at the substation can be done only in the low use months.
“In order to do some of the installation work, the substation will have to be turned off for set amounts of time. During those periods, power will be rerouted using switches to reach customers from other connections,” Streett said.
He said the work is unlikely to impact customers and anticipates only minimal customer power outages toward the end of the project in December. If that occurs, those affected will be notified.
Beyond doubling capacity, increasing the PUD’s ability to switch and reroute power is another goal of the project.
“The Irondale Substation is centrally-located in our system,” Streett said. “Because of that, it can best serve as a backup to other substations that might go down in an outage.
“Part of the work the contractor will be doing is re-configuring the transmission switchyard to match phasing at the existing substations. If Port Ludlow goes down, we can currently direct some of Chimacum’s capacity to keep the lights on.”
General Manager Larry Dunbar said the result of the Irondale substation expansion will be improved reliability and service to all of the PUD’s customers.
“To me, that’s always money well spent,” Dunbar said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]