Storms like the recent Hurricane Sally or the devastating Hurricane Michael, of two years ago, can severely damage the electric grid and leave tens of thousands of meters without power until lines are repaired. Distribution lines are the power lines that deliver electricity from WFEC’s substations to its members’ homes. However, the damage that storms like these cause to transmission systems can present different challenges to the people restoring power. Transmission lines are the lines that move large amounts of electricity from generating plants (owned by PowerSouth Energy Cooperative) to distribution systems (WFEC).
After major storms like Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Michael pass through, and it is safe to do so, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative begins damage assessments and the process of rebuilding their damaged lines within hours. While this occurs, WFEC and the surrounding cooperatives are busy assessing the damage to their distribution systems and making repairs in preparation for power being restored to the
When a derecho swept across the Midwest in early August, Central Iowa Power Cooperative reported outages affecting 58,000 homes and businesses. The storm’s 130-mph winds cut a path of destruction across the state estimated at 70 miles wide and 200 miles long.
The damage was comparable to losses experienced by our very own generation and transmission cooperative, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, during Hurricane Michael. PowerSouth lost 264 transmission structures after Michael made landfall as a Category 5 storm in 2018.
The electric power grid is made up of complex parts, deployed and installed over many decades. The basic parts include power plants, solar arrays, and wind farms; as well as transmission systems that carry high-voltage electricity into lower-voltage amounts to safely distribute power to homes, farms, and businesses.
Each element of this grid requires personnel with specific skills. Those involved in building, repairing, and maintaining them have their own work procedures, as well as specialized tools, vehicles, and equipment. That can be particularly challenging when major disruptions prompt emergency rebuilds. The pool of workers available to respond to a transmission provider’s needs is relatively small compared to those trained to help a distribution cooperative. To expedite restoration, work plans are plotted to allow reconnection to less damaged sections of the grid that often restore service to the most densely populated areas.
Emergency rebuilds present ongoing maintenance challenges that can impact operations for years. New parts and poles are comingled with assets deployed decades ago, and all the changes and updates must be noted and confirmed in the transmission asset database. More visual inspections than would take place under a scheduled rebuild may also be needed.
In many cases, the distance from the generating plant to your home's meter is in excess of 100 miles. That is miles of wire, structure, and equipment that must be operable before you can flip a switch in your home and