WI Electric Co-Op

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News and Updates

Cable Failure Update #2

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A lot has happened since our last communication.  This one will be quite brief due to the fact that there is still a whole lot going on.  It also will not necessarily be sequential information because many of the things listed were happening at the same time or are being listed together because they are related.  The Cooperative is working to develop a general communication page on its parked website and once this is accomplished more detail as well as photos of the process will be included.  This likely will not be complete until the repair is complete, but we will do the best we can.

Hoyt Purinton initially located the actual physical location of the cable in the general vicinity of the fault with his ROV.  Arrangements were made with WPS locators and a local diver to “Thump” the faulted phase of the cable.  Thumping is a locating process in which, simply put, a surge of energy is sent through the cable creating a spark at the fault location.  The locators, along with your crew member Mike Jorgenson and Hoyt and the divers, were successful in pinpointing the fault and were actually able to see the spark under water.  Finding the cable and then finding the fault are two extremely critical steps in the repair process. The less time the repair crew has to spend looking the better.   Once this process was accomplished the locators came back to the Cooperative and began the process to test the section of submarine cable that we have had in the back of the tank yard for 37 years.  It tested good.  A reel of 35KV URD cable will be arriving on Thursday as a backup plan to the existing cable.  It is preferable to use the existing submarine cable section because it is armored.

While on our emergency generators, one of the engines burned a valve and subsequently burned through part of the intake manifold and we were forced to shut it down and figure out a way to run the entire Island on one generator.  None of the operating procedures for our system gave a good direction to go, however, after several attempts using several different methods, we were able to get the Island back on, running on one generator in manual mode.  A call for help to Fabick Cat to not only make repairs on the damaged generator, but also to get the generator that we had on standby in Minneapolis coming went out.  The load on the single generator was at times well over 75% capacity and this left us extremely susceptible to unbalanced load issues that would cause the generator to shut down.  Fabick Cat got back to us and said that there was a problem with transporting the generator due to all their drivers reaching hours of service limits and we were told that the generator would not leave Minneapolis until 6AM Wednesday morning.  With the advice and help of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative’s Association, we were able to get a disaster declaration from Door County Emergency Management and this took the hours of service restrictions off and the generator was able to get to Northport for a special ferry at 6AM Wednesday morning.

With the help of your crew member Don Johnson, Fabick Cat was able to get the emergency generator set up and with the entire crew’s help the generator was running late Wednesday afternoon. The Island had to go dark during the transition (and already had gone dark twice on Wednesday due to unbalanced load issues) the generator settled in to handle the load and we are running on it now.

For the first 24 hours or so, we have used the Ferry Line’s fuel truck to transfer fuel to the generator set and with a bit of creative plumbing, we are now able to fuel using our bulk storage.

Fabick Cat commenced repairs on the damaged generator on Wednesday afternoon and Rich Ellefson has assisted in this effort.  Currently we expect the damaged engine to be operational sometime Friday afternoon and some additional work will be done on the other engine to hopefully prevent other issues with it as well.  At this point, it is unknown if we will go back on our own emergency generators or stay on the rental unit until after the repair is complete because we would like to minimize the outages required.

During all this activity, Mary Andersen has printed, stuffed envelopes, stamped and mailed out the initial communication (this one will be a boxholder and not mailed to every member), answered the phone during outages and coordinated critical phone calls while the crew was occupied.

Kerite and Durocher will be mobilizing from Cheboygan, Michigan and Connecticut on Sunday and expect to arrive on the Island on Sunday afternoon with splicing personnel arriving Monday morning.  The 313 foot piece of submarine cable (weighing something in the vicinity of 4600 lbs.) will be moved from the Cooperative and loaded on the barge as will the reel of backup wire.  They will deploy over the marked fault location on Monday and get the barge spuds down and prepare to lift the cable.  The cable in this location is in approximately 40 ft. of water and it remains to be seen if they will cut it on the bottom or lift it intact.  Either way, once on the barge the splicing process will begin and is expected to be completed on Wednesday.  The cable will return to the bottom and be covered with a concrete protection system.  WPS personnel will be present at Northport and the spliced cable will be tested and if all goes well, we will begin our switching procedure and re-energize the cable.  At the point in our switching procedure where we would start to transfer from engines, we will need to take an outage for a couple reasons:  

  1. The backup generator will need to be disconnected from service and this needs to be done with the system dead.
  2. We will need to slowly incrementally add load to the cable.  This means some people will be on before others, but the process may take a couple hours if all goes well.  We will attempt to give as much notice as we move through the process as to the approximate time this will occur.

The process for replacement will then ramp up (it is already begun).

There will be more information to come, but we have a brief momentary lull in activity and want to keep you as informed as we can.

Courtney Cauldwell