UW-Stout News Story

New electrical substation to keep campus running for decades

July 3, 2012

Last weekend was the first time in nearly 40 years that electrical power was cut to the entire University of Wisconsin-Stout campus.

It likely will be another 40 — or even 50 — years before the campus is without power again, according to Shirley Klebesadel, Physical Plant director, who oversaw a smooth transition from a 1970s substation to a new one.

“The new electrical infrastructure has the ability to continue to support the campus mission for the next several decades,” said Klebesadel.

The $4.2 million project, approved by the State Building Commission in 2009, makes UW-Stout the third UW System campus to upgrade its substation, following UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater, Klebesadel said.

Several aspects of the substation, near the intersection of Fourth Street E. and Ninth Avenue, are major upgrades from the nearby old one, which will be dismantled in the coming weeks:

• Power to campus was replaced, and the capacity of the transformers increased from 5 MVA (megavolt amperes) to 7.5. Two Xcel Energy transformers were replaced by two state-owned transformers, along with new switchgear and a new capacitor bank. “When you plan for the future you make it large enough to anticipate future demand,” Klebesadel said.

• All transformers and wiring at the new site are enclosed; they were exposed to the elements at the old site. Power feeds are underground, making campus less susceptible to outages. “A squirrel can’t take us down anymore,” Klebesadel said.

• Power from Xcel Energy comes to campus via two main lines, from opposite directions. If one feeder goes out, the campus can keep running. “The new system is sized to supply campus if it only had to be on one feeder,” Klebesadel said.

• The new substation has an electronic metering system — replacing an old dial system — making it easier to collect and compare data building-by-building and will provide the potential to save energy. “This allows better management of energy use,” Klebesadel said.

The old substation was 38 years old. “The existing substation equipment was beyond its useful life and repair parts were becoming difficult to obtain,” Klebesadel said.

Power was cut to campus at noon Friday to begin the switch to the new substation. It was restored to all buildings by 6 p.m. Sunday.

Mike McCluskey, Physical Plant project liaison, managed the project for campus and coordinated with designers and contractors. Brent Markert, Physical Plant Craftsworker supervisor, scheduled downtime at each building and provided additional emergency equipment and lighting during the outage. Maintenance staff and electricians provided additional support in each of the buildings during the shutdown.

“This project touched every building and every system on campus over the weekend. The campus faculty and staff came to work Monday as if nothing happened,” Klebesadel said. “The collaboration of the entire campus, along with special thanks to Information Technology, Campus Police and the Physical Plant staff, made it a very successful project.”

The engineering firm for the project was Clark Dietz from Wausau. The contractor was B&B Electric from Eau Claire.

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