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GUC: Rising power lines will improve reliability

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New utility poles are in set up as the old, wooden ones will soon be replaced on Highway 43 South, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mammoth metal utility poles rising along N.C. 43 south of Greenville are an indicator that the Greenville Utilities Commission is nearing the completion of its work to connect a third delivery point for the area’s power grid.

The poles will carry 150,000-volt transmission lines from a Duke Energy Progress transmission line near the intersection of Ivy and Mills roads in southern Pitt County. The lines will run north along the east side of N.C. 43 then cross over the highway near Bells Chapel Road, where the GUC has constructed a new substation.

The power substation will provide a third point of delivery from Duke to GUC customers. Lower voltage lines will run from the station to supply GUC customers. GUC purchases its power from the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency at a wholesale rate and passes the costs on to consumers. The power from NCEMPA is carried through Duke Energy’s transmission lines to GUC’s system.

GUC currently has two points of delivery. The original substation on Mumford Road partially flooded during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The system avoided a catastrophic power failure but the flood exposed the vulnerability of a single delivery point.

The company built a second substation on MacGregor Downs Road in 2002. GUC public information officer Steve Hawley said having multiple points of delivery helps ensure power supply to the city during emergencies like Floyd and Matthew. 

The poles average about 120-125 feet in length. About 30 to 35 feet goes in the ground with 85-90 feet above ground.

Ken Wade, substation and control engineer with GUC, said higher voltage lines require taller poles so that the lines can be higher off the ground and farther apart from each other to provide a greater level of insulation. He said the poles are also more resilient to weather. 

The new poles have a 150,000-volt capacity. The power substations step down voltage for consumer use. Most of the typical wooden poles throughout Greenville have a 12,470-volt capacity. 

The price of installing the new poles is $5,605,155 and the price of the new substation is $4,800,000, according to the utility. The installation is being handled by a third-party contractor and is expected to be complete by Jan. 1.

Wade said crews are working almost daily to install the new infrastructure.

Hawley said that the additions will improve overall system reliability in addition to providing the extra failsafe during storms.

Hawley said compared to other area investor-owned utilities like Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas and Dominion Power, GUC has a higher reliability for its customers. He said GUC’s systems experience 43 percent fewer outages and an average of 86 minute faster rate in restoring power. 

“I think this project is a great example of how we invest in our system to provide our customers with a higher reliability than for-profit power agencies offer theirs,” Hawley said. “Whether it’s a storm and flooding like Floyd or Matthew, or something else that comes along, having the redundancies of multiple places for GUC to receive power and then redistribute it throughout the system helps us maintain an extremely high level of reliability for our customers.”

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579

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