Midwest Electric announces 2019 plans

ST. MARYS — Midwest Electric is planning $4.1 million in investments in power reliability and electric operations in 2019. The cooperative does not expect an electric rate increase this year, which would mark nine years since its last rate change.

Primary components of the 2019 work plan include:

• Start the multi-year installation of a supervisory control and data acquisition and distribution automation system, which allows remote access to the electric system, reducing the length of outages by using automation to more quickly transfer load from one source to another during a major outage. For example, if a substation is without power due to the transmission supply line, this technology would allow the co-op — from the office — to activate nearby reclosers and “back feed” the substation to energize it using another source of power from a different location. This would not eliminate the outage, but it would reduce its length.

Currently, substation outages could last two hours or more. After distribution automation, outages could last just 15 minutes. The goal is to eventually make this switching capability available system-wide to 17 substations and metering points. In 2019, the project will start in the Rockford, Jonestown and Spencerville areas.

• A budgeted 15 miles of single-phase line rebuild in the Chickasaw, Kossuth, Lake and Noble substation and metering point areas and the rebuilding of 2.5 miles of transmission line connecting Marathon and Macedon substations in western Mercer County. These involve replacing old copper lines with higher-strength aluminum.

• Replace primary underground conductor in Cridersville’s Meadowbrook subdivision and Southmoor Shores on Grand Lake St. Marys.

• Purchase two new digger derrick trucks.

• Pole testing in the Kossuth and Noble substation areas. All 33,000 of Midwest Electric’s poles are tested on a 10-year cycle for sturdiness and reliability. Typically, less than 1 percent fail the test, and those poles are replaced.

• Tree trimming in the Bluelick, Rockport and Noble substation areas. Tree pruning is performed on a five-year cycle throughout the cooperative’s 1,600 miles of power line.

• Begin the staking process to tie or connect the co-op’s Coldwater metering point with the St. Henry substation for back feed reliability.

• Buy new equipment (including transformers, line reclosers, regulators, meters and poles).

“Our engineering staff does an impressive job of planning for the future growth and power reliability needs of our members, and the operations crews are dedicated to restoring power safely and efficiently,” said CEO Matt Berry. “Over the past nine years, we’ve invested $20 million in electric system reliability upgrades, and we’ve returned $11.5 million to our members in patronage cash back — all without raising electric rates.”

Midwest Electric’s last rate change was in August 2010.