A new Hermiston East Substation will help Umatilla Electric Cooperative keep the lights on more consistently in Hermiston.
The $4.75 million project, located at the corner of Elm Avenue and Northeast 10th Street, will begin operating later this month.
Josh Lankford, UEC engineering manager, said the new substation would have the ability to serve most, if not all, of Hermiston. Customers will continue to be spread out over multiple substations, however, so that a problem at one substation doesn’t knock out power to the whole city.
“We keep things broken up,” Lankford said. “That limits your outages.”
The substation features newer technology and equipment, which should provide improved reliability compared to the area’s other stations. And when a falling tree branch, haphazard bird or other problem disrupts service, Lankford said Hermiston customers should see their power restored much more quickly now that UEC has the extra capacity to “backfeed” them over to the new substation while repairs are being made elsewhere.
During a tour for Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce members on Wednesday, Matt Williams, the UEC senior engineer who oversaw the project, said power from Bonneville Power Administration will come into the substation by way of transmission lines from the McNary Dam and leave through six feeders — three for UEC and three for Hermiston Energy Services — to make its way to individual homes and businesses. Meters at the site track the amount of energy coming in and out of the substation, and equipment there automatically steps down the higher voltages coming from BPA to the level needed for distribution through the feeders.
The substation currently has a single transformer, but UEC plans to add a second transformer sometime in the future as the Hermiston area continues to grow.
According to a fact sheet handed out during the tour, Hermiston and surrounding areas have experienced “ongoing population and electrical growth” and the Hermiston East Substation will help provide the added capacity needed to keep up with that growth.
Umatilla Electric Cooperative and the project’s contractor Potelco, Inc. are doing what they can to make the site as safe as possible, from protecting parts against birds to installing a network of copper wires grounding the equipment and snaking their way underground to help protect people standing nearby during a surge.
“We do it five feet outside the fence too, so if kids come up to look and grab the fence they won’t get electrocuted,” Williams said.
The substation is owned by UEC but will also serve Hermiston Energy Services customers. The municipal utility contracts with UEC for infrastructure, operations, maintenance, billing and much of its other day-to-day services.