Upgrades to Graham County Electric Cooperative Infrastructure Improve Reliability & Service, Help Control Costs

Pole and Line Replacements, Vegetation Management Highlight Reliability Enhancements.

For Rusty Sherman, Graham County Electric Cooperative Operations Manager, reliability is a 24/7, 365-day a year project.

“Pole and conductor (line) replacements and vegetation management near our lines, substations and other facilities are something we’re looking at every day of the year, and we’re planning to do even more,” Sherman said.

“Our goal right now is to replace approximately 500 aging power poles and multiple thousands of feet – in some areas literally miles – of conductor, to make our system more reliable,” Sherman said.

“If we don’t replace the poles that are aging, when the monsoons come swooping in they can take down big swaths of poles at one time, making outages and downtime longer – so all of this is normal – but critical – maintenance,” said Sherman.

“And of course, we do all this with the Member foremost in our mind. We don’t want anyone to be without power but if it happens we want the outage to be as brief as possible,” Sherman said.

For several years GCEC has been using an outside contractor to aggressively inspect our power poles and miles of line on the system, to determine which poles pass and which poles fail and to prioritize those that need to be replaced.

Hooker substation, on the west side of the Graham Mountains, is being replaced as part of the reliability improvements program.

“We determined that if we have a fault or a failure there, we could be down for weeks, even months. It’s an old substation – one of the transformers we have there was manufactured in 1958 – and it’s a substation that feeds 60-plus miles of line all the way around the (west) side of the mountain, Klondike, to Aravaipa Canyon and back to the Cedar Springs area” Sherman said.

The substation serves hundreds of GCEC Members, many of whom are in remote areas, and a failure there could impact other parts of the system.

The new Hooker substation is being constructed at the same site, next to the existing substation, and is scheduled to be energized (go online) in July of this year.

Sherman said substation maintenance and upgrades are also an ongoing part of the reliability improvements, and vegetation management keeps vegetation and tree limbs and other natural growth from obstructing or damaging poles, lines, and other critical equipment, such as in substations.

“If anyone wants more information on our reliability efforts, they can call our office at any time during normal business hours. If I’m not available we’ll find someone who is,” Sherman said.