No matter its location, a Little River Electric Cooperative substation is likely to stand out with its complicated design of steel, wires, and strange objects protruding above high, chain-linked fencing. Every component, though, has a role in providing members with safe, reliable electricity.
In order for electricity to travel hundreds of miles from a power plant to a Little River Electric substation, it must have a high voltage. These voltage levels are much higher than appliances in homes and businesses can handle. A substation’s primary purpose is to receive high voltage transmission power and begin stepping it down to a lower voltage. This is done by a transformer — so-called because it “transforms” electricity from one voltage to another.
With a sophisticated network of equipment, the substation also provides a switching point where multiple connections are made that control the flow of electricity and protect against abnormalities like fault currents, which can seriously damage or destroy substation equipment.
“Our substations are specifically designed and built for our system and load,” explains Michael Hall, engineering and staking technician. “Each one is an energy hub for the area that it serves. If anything goes wrong, it can affect thousands of members. Our efforts toward reliability begin at our substations.”
LREC substations are designed to prevent outages with devices such as lightning arresters, which divert surge currents to the earth; regulators, which keep voltage levels within acceptable ranges; relays, which sense faults and send interruption messages to the circuit breakers; and fuses—much like the ones in the typical home breaker box—which have fusible links that break as overcurrent passes through them.
One of the most important tools is the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system which monitors and controls the system’s devices. The SCADA system helps to maintain efficiency by collecting and processing real-time data.
“We can’t stop or predict all equipment failure—especially when animals like snakes, birds, and squirrels cause trouble,” says Hall. “But that data allows us to see potential vulnerabilities and plan what the subs need.”
Finally, the electricity leaves each sub-station by way of multiple distribution feeders, three-phase lines that route to their designated areas of service. Once the current is on the distribution lines, the voltage is stepped down further for safe use in a home or business.
As Little River Electric-served communities grow, substations are built or upgraded to handle the increasing load and improve reliability. The closer you live to a substation, service interruptions become fewer and shorter. “A substation is the best neighbor you can have,” says Hall. “The yard is always kept neat. It doesn’t make any noise. And if the power goes out, you’re the first to get restored.”
Safety is paramount at subs
Wherever high voltage currents are flowing, safety must be paramount. That’s why LREC Electric Cooperative takes every precaution to protect its members and employees in and around its substations. LREC’s substations are secured and monitored to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering. Fencing also keeps out debris and animals.
Individuals should not be in contact with the outer fencing or attempt to enter inside a substation. If you see someone other than a cooperative employee attempting to enter a substation, alert Little River Electric immediately at (864) 366-2141.