Site work underway for new transformer

ELLIE HEBERT Contributing writer
Site work for a new transformer that will provide higher voltage and more reliability for the electric system began the second week of January next to the city’s power plant. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE - A new transformer that will provide higher voltage coming into the city and also provide more reliability for the electric system has arrived in Plaquemine.

The $900,000 unit arrived on Dec. 30. The city ordered it in the summer of 2012 and it took six months to build.

“It is really going to help our reliability a lot,” Mayor Mark “Tony” Gulotta said. “The transformer that we are using now was made in 1953. It is still a good transformer but it is way past its life expectancy and it is just old.”

Site work for the transformer, which will be located next to the city’s power plant, began the second week of January.

Gulotta said he hopes to have the new transformer installed before the summer, but it may not be possible because of bid law requirements and the amount of time needed for the fabrication of custom equipment required for installation of the new transformer.

The city authorized the purchase of the new transformer after Morgan City experienced a fire of its transformer and it resulted in a 48- hour electrical outage.

Plaquemine officials recognized that the city was also vulnerable because it would take 6-8 hours to get its power plant running and the plant could not handle the city’s entire load.

The maximum capacity for the city’s steam plant is 21 megawatts, and the city’s electrical load peaks at 27 megawatts in the summer. Relying on the steam plant would mean rolling blackouts until the transformer could be repaired, which could take time because of its age and the nature of the repairs required.

“Realizing that the city was vulnerable, we acted quickly, and the project is moving quickly,” Gulotta said.

The new transformer will be the city’s primary transformer and the existing transformer will become the back-up transformer.

It will increase the city’s voltage from 69,000 volts to 115,000 volts coming in to the city. In addition, the new transformer will be state of the art and will provide more stability with power coming from the electrical grid.

The complicated process of installing the new transformer will require running new underground feeder lines to the existing transformer because they are located where the new transformer will be installed, along with setting piles for the new transformer pad, laying a ground grid, installing a new control building and then the installing all of the wiring necessary to connect and operate the new transformer.

The total cost for the project is about $4 million with electrical wiring and custom equipment that is necessary to make it the new primary substation for the city and to connect it to the electrical grid.

The city received $2 million in low interest (.09%) loan funds, and will fund the remainder with a three percent interest loan.