Verendrye had low outage time in 2020
Verendrye Electric ended 2020 with low outage time
Verendrye Electric ended 2020 with an average outage time of less than an hour, a milestone significantly below state and national outage times. The official outage time was 48.6 minutes on average per meter.
“This is only the second time I can ever remember being under one hour,” said Manager Randy Hauck.
The last time the cooperative was under an hour was in 2017, when the average was 42 minutes. The average is calculated by adding up the total outage times across the system for the year, and then dividing that by all of the meters. Some members would have experienced longer outage times than the average, whiles others experienced no outages.
“It’s rare to be under one hour per meter on average, but our aggressive maintenance and construction, outage management technology and hard-working employees helped us end 2020 on a good note,” said Operations Manager Tim Krumwiede.
The state average outage time is over two hours and the national average is over 3 hours.
Verendrye Electric completed several reliability upgrades in 2020
Verendrye Electric made over $7 million worth of reliability investments in 2020 including a new substation, hundreds of new power poles and dozens of miles of new power lines. The improvements are part of ongoing efforts to maintain low outage times that have consistently been below state and national averages.
Verendrye’s average outage time was 48.6 minutes in 2020. State and national average outage times can sometimes be twice that or more.
“We were able to complete a lot of construction projects in 2020 that will have a big impact on reliability in many areas of our system,” said Engineering Manager Brad Doll.
Verendrye develops a multi-year plan for system improvements, targeting problem areas or infrastructure that is aging. Each year’s plan is reviewed and changes can be made and submitted to the board of directors for their review. Then the work begins.
“It takes a lot of expertise and hard work from our employees to complete these large and complex projects,” said General Manager Randy Hauck. “It’s also helpful to have a board that is engaged and understands the value these improvements provide to our members.”
One of the largest projects include a new substation near Towner. This was a joint effort between Verendrye Electric, Central Power and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) that was completed over 3 years at a cost of over $2 million.
The old substation sat in the floodplain along the Souris River. The new one is out of the floodplain and the source of power for it will come from an existing WAPA transmission line. It will be more reliable and marks the last substation to be on the Otter Tail Power system. Over the last 3 years a total of 16 miles of overhead line was converted to underground and 8 new miles of line was added to accommodate this project.
Verendrye maintains nearly 5,000 miles of power line, some dating back to the 1940s. In 2020 Verendrye installed 36 new miles of underground power lines and replaced about 33 miles of existing underground power lines. Verendrye also retired about 26 miles of overhead line.
Verendrye Electric has around 55,000 power poles which are inspected on a 10-year cycle. They are tested by taking core samples and the cooperative determines if they should be replaced. In 2020 Verendrye replaced around 400 poles.
In 2020 Verendrye completed converting over 3,500 security lights to LEDs. LED lights use about half the power as some of the older light and they requires less maintenance, which allows us to concentrate on system upgrades and improvements which in turn improves system reliability.
In addition to all of the investments in infrastructure, Verendrye has continually improved technology that cuts down the time it takes to troubleshoot problems and repair outages. Dispatchers know when something is not right with the electrical system and the smart meters help us find the outage or problem often before sending out crews.
Just because the year is over doesn’t mean the work stops.
“Maintenance never ends,” Doll said. “Once we finish one maintenance cycle, we start another one.”