Accident caused power outage last week

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By John Barnhart

An accident by an electrical contractor left three-fourths of Bedford in the dark for more than a half hour last Thursday.

According to Jeff Weddle, Bedford's public services director, a truck belonging to New River Electric, an American Electric Power (AEP) contractor, struck a guy wire at the Mosley substation. This substation, located just west of Bedford, is partially owned by AEP and partially owned by the city's electric department. It fees power from AEP's lines to Bedford's system. The contractor was doing work on AEP's side.

Hitting the guy wire caused a ground wire to fall across hot wires, creating a short. Weddle said that city workers had to shift the city's system so all power would be fed from the Centerville station. It took 34 minutes to accomplish all the work. This restored power to the city and allowed workers to make repairs at the Mosley station, which came back on line the next morning.

A shorter outage, lasting only 20 seconds, occurred Wednesday when a squirrel's curiosity proved fatal. The squirrel was exploring the Mosley substation and shorted two hot wires, killing the squirrel and knocking out power.

Weddle noted that several projects are in the works to improve the power system's reliability. One major improvement is a new station to supply Bedford's industrial park. This will be located at the intersection of McGhee Street and Orange Avenue and is scheduled to be completed next year. The city has a number of stations which step down voltage from the transmission line voltage to either 12,000 or 4,000 volts. These are the voltages that go into the transformers on top of telephone poles. Building the new station will relieve the load on two heavily loaded existing stations. This, in turn, will improve system reliability because one station can be taken out of service for maintenance. That can't currently be done without causing overloads at other stations.

A new 138,000 volt switcher is scheduled to be installed at the Mosley Station this fall. This allows for isolation of the transformer that feeds the Wheelabrator plant, in order to fix a problem with that transformer if needed, without causing a 20 second power disruption to other customers.

The Macon Street station will get a 69,000 volt circuit breaker. This will replace existing fuses and Weddle said that this will provide better system protection if something happens, such as a curious squirrel doing a little exploring.

The Coulton station, located halfway between Bedford and Big Island will get a renovation. One circuit exits the station underground before climbing a power pole. This underground exit, which exists to keep power lines adequately separated, is getting old and needs upgraded.

Further improvements include fuses on all distribution transformers. This prevents a problem on one transformer taking others out of service, minimizing the number of customers that one problem can leave without power. Weddle said that the city is also installing in-line surge protectors throughout the system. This is done to minimize the damage that power surges from lightning strikes can cause.