An employee helps guide the 20,000 pound transformer

Last week, a transformer was successfully moved from the Sundown substation to the Arab substation on Main Street to replace one that was bad.

Arab Electric Cooperative, Corbitt Power and Service Electric combined efforts to safely move the transformer, test it and install it at the Main Street substation.

“This work represented the final efforts in a five-month work plan in which AEC crews implemented a plan designed by substation engineers to help stabilize our local electric distribution system,” said AEC general manager Scott Spence.

It wasn’t a pole transformer that can be seen hanging on the side of utility poles. Rather it was a substation transformer, which weighs more than 20,000 pounds.

Before moving the transformer, AEC also installed voltage regulator, switches and other work that needed to be done ahead of “shifting the load” to the transformer.

The Main Street substation, which provides power to the homes and businesses in that area, was de-engergized while the transformer was being installed.

“The equipment installed by AEC allowed our crews to serve the power needs of homes and businesses near Sundown and Arab District substations from other parts of our system for a brief period of time during,” Spence said.

The work had to be done while the temperature was mild.

“Had the temps been more extreme (hot or cold), the work couldn’t have been done,” he added.

If the bad transformer at the Main Street substation had gone down during extreme conditions, customers in that area could have been without power for two or three days.

“This was very technical and specific work that required the use of contractors with such expensive tools and experience in situations that many utilities rarely experience with in-house crews, due to the specialization required to do the job,” Spence said.

There were people as far away as Memphis, Birmingham and Chattanooga that played key roles in making sure the project came off without a glitch.

“Assessing the needs, designing a plan, implementing the plan and getting the work done safely required a large team effort,” Spence said. “There were so many things that can and often do go wrong with plans this complicated and lengthy. Believe me, I think each one of them ruined several nights sleep for me from spring until late fall. The internet is filled with videos of so many of the bad things that utilities experience during this type of work, and the fact that ours worked like a champ is due in large part to many, many hours of study, research and other pre-work by a lot of people.”

(Note: Tribune editor Charles Whisenant is a member of the AEC board of trustees.)

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