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Bigger substation needed to prevent power failures

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Power outages plague western Summit County but Rocky Mountain Power officials hope an expanded substation at Kimball Junction will prevent future failures.

Adjacent to Bear Hollow Village is a facility that serves about 5,200 Rocky Mountain customers, according to Summit County planner Kimber Gabryszak.

Without expanding the substation, power officials expect more system failures this winter. Rocky Mountain Power received a permit from Summit County to build a second transformer and three circuit breaker feeder bays at the facility.

Explosive growth in western Summit County likely contributes to electrical failures and construction on the expanded substation has begun.

"Plus the fact that as individual consumers we are all using more electricity than we did 20 years ago," Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman Margaret Oler said. "We’re putting in things like air conditioning systems and plasma TVs and computers that just were not in our households 20 years ago."

Today people use 26 percent more electricity than 20 years ago, she said.

"There is a lot of growth of new businesses and new residential growth so our projections indicated that in order to meet that demand for this coming winter this project needed to be in place," Oler said about expanding the substation at Bear Hollow. "Otherwise there is not enough capacity to serve the needs of our customers."

The peak demand for electricity in Summit County is in the winter because of the number of visitors during the ski season. People in the rest of the state demand the most electricity in the summertime.

"That’s why we have to get this project finished before winter," Oler said. "Summit County is growing much faster than the rest of the state in terms of demand for electricity during that winter peak The system has to reflect what’s needed in that very local setting."

Substations reduce the voltage of electricity received from larger facilities so the energy is suitable for homes and businesses.

"Our substations have to be located close to the load that they serve," Oler said. "We are going to be taking two new circuits out of this substation with this expansion [to] serve more customers."

With a growth rate of almost seven percent, the Wasatch Back is growing twice as fast as the rest of the state, power officials say.

"Generally speaking the power outages occur because of things that are happening in the environment," Oler said, adding that "there is always the possibility that something doesn’t get done on time and that would create a problem."

Growth drives expansion

Soon a new power line could stretch from North Summit to the Silver Creek substation at the intersection of State Road 248 and U.S. 40. The Thief Creek transmission line could deliver electricity to North Summit from near southwest Wyoming.

"There is a need to bring more electricity into the Summit County area," Oler said.

Officials hope to finish a new transmission line next year and upgrade an existing line between Coalville and Park City in 2010.

"Time is a factor and we have to have those facilities in place on time in order to serve the needs of customers," Oler said.

Submit a question or comment about the Thief Creek project by e-mailing ConstructionProjects@pacificorp.com, or calling (801) 220-4221.


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