New transformer recently installed at substation

Sparta Electric and Caney Fork Electric share cost


 On Oct. 14, the west Sparta electric substation got a delivery that had been 11 months in the works. The new transformer, which will be shared by Sparta Electric System and Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, was delivered and the installation process began.

In November 2020, the 30-plus-year-old shared transformer was deemed no longer functional, and the process of replacing it began. While the purchase approval came quickly, and the order was placed by mid-December of last year, the shipping wasn’t scheduled until Sept. 1, 2021.  The arrival was further delayed because of the existing shipping crisis across the globe, and the transformer never left Mexico City until Sept. 27.

“There have been some city-wide outages over the last year or two because of the set-up of the substation. Anytime we have had to do maintenance, we’ve had to do a city-wide outage,” Bryan Hickerson, a Line Design Engineer/ Line Crew Foreman with Sparta Electric, explained. “Once all of this is complete, it should eliminate unnecessary outages.”

Hickerson said there will likely be two to three more planned city-wide outages over the next month or two as they work to get the new transformer hooked up and all systems working. He further stated the outages will be kept to under four hours and will take place around midnight and will be announced in advance.

“With fair weather, this should be completed over the next month or two,” he said, adding that if the temperatures drop too low, they will have to wait for a warmer night to be able to conduct an outage. “After that there shouldn’t be a need for more outages.”

The new transformer, due to it being a spare and shared between the two companies, came with a shared cost. The City of Sparta was responsible for 45 percent of the cost of the transformer, while Caney Fork covered the remaining 55 percent.

“Insurance covered 100 percent of our portion of anything having to do with the new transformer and its installation,” Hickerson said and explained the city participates in an annual maintenance program on its transformers that led to this benefit. “The costs included widening the road, man hours to prepare the concrete pad and to hook everything up, as well as shipping, the cost of the crane and operating crew. Anything that has to do with the new transformer was completely covered.”

The installation of the new transformer was done by D&B Cranes, of Chattanooga. The crane arrived to lift the 124,000 pound transformer from the truck bed and place it on the prepared concrete pad.

“[Next week] we will fill it with 4,000 gallons of oil and complete a couple of days of testing before we start hooking things up,” Hickerson explained, saying that once the transformer is full of all attachments, the unit will weigh just under 170,000 pounds.

Hickerson also said because of routine maintenance, the city is not in risk of having their sole-owned transformer quit anytime soon, but they are already planning ahead.

“We aren’t in danger of needing to replace the other soon, but we have a five-year plan and are putting money back,” he said, adding that some transformers when well-maintained can last between 60 and 70 years. “We actually began that plan for saving for replacement last year.”


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