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Sturgeon Bay Utilities Plans New Substation

At its April meeting, SBU’s Commissioners reviewed and approved a recommendation from Staff to design and construct a new substation on the east side of Sturgeon Bay. The need for this critical piece of infrastructure was defined a number of years ago. The decision to move forward with this project was triggered by continued load growth from greater customer demand as well as the aging of existing equipment.

Electricity travels from its source (power generating plants) via transmission lines at high voltage levels (generally 69,000 volts or higher). Electric current travels more efficiently at higher voltage, leading to less power loss over long distances. These transmission voltages must be “stepped down” to accommodate our local distribution system (12,470/7200 volts). This process occurs within the Utility’s substation.

Equipment found within a typical substation includes the power transformer itself, the bus work that channels the electric current to the appropriate equipment, circuit breakers that tie into the distribution circuits, and a control house in which control and monitoring equipment resides.

Sound utility practice dictates that redundant systems exist for essential services such as drinking water, sewer and electric. With two substations on the West side of town, SBU is able to switch between the two in case of equipment failure or acts of nature to limit downtime for our customers. In addition, these two substations allow us to apportion the load between them for maximum efficiency.

The East side of Sturgeon Bay, which accounts for over 62% of our total load, possesses only one substation. As a result, no site diversity exists in case of an event (natural or other) that disables this site or the equipment in it. In addition, although SBU’s customer base is not growing significantly, our customers’ appetite for power continues to grow as we acquire more complex appliances and electronic devices. This continued growth will soon lead to the two transformers located in our existing East side substation not being capable of backing each other up.

The solution to this limitation and the resulting issues included the recent proposal and approval of plans to engineer and construct a new substation. This is a large undertaking with an estimated cost of $2.8 million and a timeframe of 18-24 months.

Siting a substation must take into consideration proximity to both incoming transmission lines as well as our own distribution circuits. Based on these and other factors, SBU plans to construct this facility on an empty lot at the intersection of County TT and Lily Bay Road in the Town of Sturgeon Bay. This site will also allow for safe entrance and exit of our vehicles and allows sufficient space to effectively screen the facility to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

Our plans were submitted to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) on May 2, 2008. The PSC will soon begin its own assessment of the justification and environmental impact (refer to Docket # 5780-CE-104 at the PSC’s website

Assuming that the PSC authorizes the project to move forward, our engineering and site preparation will begin this fall. SBU provides electric service to not only the City, but also to the neighboring Towns of Clay Banks, Sevastopol, Nasawaupee and Sturgeon Bay. At this time, it is not our intention to annex this property into the City.

If all goes according to plan, we will energize this new substation in late fall of 2009. Once that happens, we will have greatly enhanced reliability for the 5,000 customers who live east of Sturgeon Bay and the Canal for many decades to come.

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