Late in the afternoon on February 6, North West REC Members began to report outages near Hawarden. NIPCO control center operators were also alerted by system alarms indicating high-side fuse activity at Hawarden Substation which served those members. NIPCO crews were dispatched to check out the situation and found the substation transformer was damaged and needed to be replaced. This would take some time; therefore, North West REC chose to restore power to their members by re-routing power from three other area substations: Center Substation, West Branch Substation, and Orange City Substation.
NIPCO and North West REC were concerned that predicted frigid temperatures, snow, and high winds, overnight, would create higher-than-normal loading during the early morning peak hours. This could result in too much loading on the three substations, causing potential outages to members. It was mutually agreed to install NIPCO’s 5 MW (megawatt) mobile substation transformer to carry the load at Hawarden Substation, thus preventing overloading of the other three substations.
NIPCO crew members worked to transport and connect NIPCO’s mobile substation unit in the face of 40 mile-per-hour wind gusts and wind chill factors of -27 degrees.
By 8:45pm, the mobile substation was connected and by 9:18pm, North West REC crews completed looping their members back onto Hawarden Sub, thanks to the power provided by NIPCO’s mobile substation transformer.
But Mother Nature Wasn't Finished, Yet...
In the early morning hours of April 11, NIPCO sustained significant infrastructure damage in the northern area of its system. High winds from Winter Storm Wesley brought down nearly three miles of 69kV line between L1 and L8 (north/south line) 69kV switch stations, near Orange City. This line section also has MidAmerican Energy distribution and Long Lines fiber optic cable underbuilds. In addition, NIPCO sustained damage to one structure north of the J2 switch station near Primghar, in O’Brien County. Due to the redundancy of the NIPCO transmission system, NIPCO was able to isolate these sections of line and restore power to all end-users impacted by the damage. By storms’ end, NIPCO had lost 65 total structures to Wesley’s wrath.
By late afternoon that same day, the broken structure near Primghar had been replaced and NIPCO crews travelled to the impacted area west of Orange City to replace another pole near the L8 switch station. This prevented an outage to the North West REC Orange City Substation. NIPCO’s contractor, WATTs Electric, began to remove fallen structures from the road ROW (right of way) to prepare for the next day’s rebuild operations.
On Friday morning, April 12, restoration activities quickly commenced as NIPCO, MidAmerican Energy and contractors/crew from WATTs Electric, Par, and Intren worked to rebuild the damaged line along Indian Avenue. Approximately 110 workers completed all of the line rebuild by 10:00pm on Saturday, April 13.
NIPCO commends our line crews, apparatus personnel, control center operators, and engineers as well as crews of North West REC, MidAmerican Energy, WATTs Electric and other partner contractors, Sioux County road crews, and the City of Orange City for their contributions toward this work, despite less-than-ideal conditions. This is just one of many examples, system-wide, that demonstrates how NIPCO and our member cooperatives are committed to working collaboratively to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of power to member-consumers in western Iowa.
For More On This Story...
Throughout the duration of Winter Storm Wesley, NIPCO posted regular updates and several photos to a dedicated Storm Communications Page, including amazing drone video of the rebuild operations, courtesy of North West Rural Electric Cooperative and drone pilot and North West REC Staking & GPS Technician Gabe Roetman.