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Building on a Good Thing

  • Posted: 11.15.2019

In 2016, NIPCO’s Board of Directors approved a multi-year construction plan that would address immediate and long-term needs facing NIPCO’s aging infrastructure. The plan focuses efforts to modernize transmission infrastructure that is over 50 years old and was part of NIPCO’s original build. Construction is being managed by NIPCO’s engineering staff, working with NIPCO crews and contractors.

NIPCO is not alone in its efforts to upgrade its system. In a 2018 report authored by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, spending on infrastructure to deliver power to homes and businesses has increased steadily since 1996 as electric utilities build, upgrade, and replace station equipment, poles, fixtures and overhead lines and devices. The report goes on to cite the primary factors that drive transmission investment include:

  • Upgrades and replacement of aging transmission infrastructure
  • System hardening and resiliency to minimize adverse catastrophic events
  • Fundamental improvements to comply with evolving transmission reliability and security compliance standards, and
  • Expansion of the transmission system to integrate renewables and natural gas generation
Work being done at L2, a substation located near Kingsley, Iowa.

For NIPCO, construction projects focus, primarily, on rebuilding substations, transmission lines, and switches to incorporate newer technologies that improve capacity and physical strength, as well as improve communications features. For substations, this means increasing the footprint for better access by line crews, newer and larger control buildings that house modern SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) equipment, installation of underground fiber-optics for improved communications, and the integration of enhanced security measures.

Transmission lines are being rebuilt to address sections of line that have reached end-of-service life, to increase power flow capacity and improve ice and wind loading. In some cases, spans of line are being relocated to allow ease of access for line crews and minimize impact to landowners.

 Photo of Jayme Huber, seated at his desk

Our 'To Do' List

All of the original installation dates of NIPCO’s transmission lines, switching stations, and substations are on record and act as our ‘To Do List.' The Engineering, Transmission, Apparatus, Telecom, and Control Center teams work together and, in some cases, partner with contractors to manage all construction projects. We are prioritizing our upgrade efforts to address the oldest facilities, first, then working our way down the list. -Jayme Huber, NIPCO Engineering & Operations Manager

Approximately 49 miles of transmission line and seven switch stations are scheduled for upgrade in 2020. In total, 415 miles of transmission line, 60+ switches, and ten transmission stations are scheduled for upgrades per the original Rebuild Plan, which began in 2017. Continued rebuild of the transmission line is expected for the next nine to eleven years.