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BPA lends a hand to storm-ravaged Midwest
7/24/2012 12:00 AM
Adam Dunn and Dennis Beckwith are pictured at the spare parts warehouse after packaging three bushings for shipment to Commonwealth Edison in Illinois. (Photo: Pat Timm)
Once again, BPA employees came through in a pinch to help get power flowing to customers after a big storm. But wait - this time the storm hit in summer and the people without power were in Illinois.
This unusual assist began July 4 at 7 a.m., when BPA electrical equipment specialist Pat Timm received an urgent phone call while on duty in Technical Services at the Ross Complex. Commonwealth Edison, which serves 3.8 million customers in Chicago and northern Illinois, was desperately seeking spare parts to repair a damaged transformer.
In the midst of a massive heat wave, ComEd was grappling with extensive power outages. Severe storms had brought 90 mph winds and lightning to the area that uprooted trees, downed power lines and damaged electrical equipment. At the height of the outages, about 250,000 of the utility's customers were without power as temperatures soared over 100.
ComEd was already scrambling to repair system damage when another thunderstorm swept through the night of July 3. The storm damaged three bushings on the mobile transformer the utility was using as a backup, which knocked out power to more of their customers. ComEd had no spare parts on hand and no time to buy new ones. That's when BPA got the call.
"Many utilities don't stock spare transformer bushings," says Timm, who is known as BPA's bushing guru. "But because BPA has so many high voltage transformers on our system and because bushings are specialized parts made by only a couple manufacturers worldwide, we keep spares around as kind of an insurance policy."
These transformer bushings in the spare parts warehouse are similar to the ones BPA sold to ComEd. (Photo: Pat Timm)
Fortunately for the sweltering citizens of Illinois, BPA just happened to have three of the bushings ComEd needed for its 138 kilovolt transformer.
"I analyzed the risk of letting these go, and determined they were surplus," Timm says. "We purchased the bushings in the 1990s for a 138 kV transformer that we had since sold, so they were no longer needed."
Timm got the ball rolling that same day, coordinating with staff in BPA's warehouse, the shipping department and the Investment Recovery Center, which sells the agency's surplus equipment. Employees supporting the effort include Dennis Beckwith, Adam Dunn, Kevin Kertzman and Kathy Gish from Warehouse and Transportation; and Ulrik Larsen from Logistics Management.
On July 5, the parts were packaged for shipping and air freighted to Illinois. ComEd received the parts July 6 and got their mobile transformer back in service. That same day, the utility reported that power had been restored to all of its customers.
"A two-day turnaround from first call to install on an emergency bushing request is really well done," says Larry Bekkedahl, deputy senior vice president of Transmission Services. "Thanks to all the employees for pitching in and helping out."
BPA Administrator Steve Wright also gives kudos. "The responsiveness of our folks speaks volumes about BPA's commitment to public service, recognizing that this single action could make a positive and meaningful difference in tens of thousands of our fellow American citizens' lives," Wright says. "It's a great display of initiative, and I am grateful to all involved."
"We often hear about the hardships our fellow citizens experience after weather or natural disaster-related emergencies," Timm adds. "It's always nice to be of some help even if we are thousands of miles apart."
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