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Conley Creek Substation gets upgrades to increase capacity to Baum Industrial Park

Baker City, Oregon (OTEC) — Crews from Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative have started upgrades to the Conley Creek Substation that cooperative leaders hope will have a direct impact on encouraging economic development in Union County.

Once completed, the upgrades will double the electrical capacity in the area and will provide additional capacity to accommodate new businesses in the nearby Baum Industrial Park.

“In the past, when a prospective industrial customer asked for cost of service for one megawatt or more, it was very expensive because our system was at its capacity and we had to include the cost of upgrading system infrastructure. We will now be able to handle new growth up to 10 megawatts of load in the Baum Industrial park area at a much lower price tag, which should help attract industry to the area, “said Kelly Jobes, an OTEC system engineer.
Located off Highway 82 outside of La Grande, the substation upgrade includes a new transformer that will increase the substation’s capacity by 10 megawatts. For reference, Jobes said that lumber mills typically use approximately five to eight megawatts.
“We continuously monitor our electric distribution system to ensure that we are able to meet the power needs of our members and plan for future growth,” OTEC General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Les Penning said. “Installing a new transformer and doubling the load capacity at Conley Creek will ensure that we continue to provide reliable power to our current and future members.”

The capital budget project is expected to cost approximately $600,000 when it is completed. Work on the substation is expected to continue through the end of June. Jobes said there should be no interruption of power due to the upgrade work.

Jobes said the decision to get going on the upgrades came toward the end of 2017 and was a direct result of conversations within OTEC about the need to help drive economic development in Union County.

“Upgrading the Conley Creek Substation has been in OTEC’s work plan for many years, but it was moved up the priority list after getting feedback from many of our community leaders,” said Penning.

The Conley Creek Substation is one of 21 on Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative’s electric grid that takes power from high-voltage transmission lines and reduces it to a lower voltage so it can be distributed to the cooperative’s members. It primarily serves industrial customers along Highway 82 and Pierce Lane.

Jobes said the cooperative has long-range plans to convert its transmission lines from 69,000 volts to 138,000 volts. The new substation upgrades will accommodate those plans.

“The new transformer can be operated at 69,000 or 138,000 volts,” he said. “It does make it one step closer to converting our transmission line to a higher voltage, which allows for more efficient transfer of power, frees up additional capacity for the future, and allows for more flexibility for alternate transmission feeds between La Grande and Baker.”

Jobes said crews have been making progress along the OTEC system upgrading transmission lines to 138,000 volts.

“OTEC has been rebuilding our transmission lines the past seven years because of age and deterioration. Most of these lines were originally built in the 1920s and 1960s,” Jobes said. “As these lines have been replaced, they have been rebuilt for the 138,000-volt system, which is a very low incremental cost and a good long-term investment. Load growth will ultimately drive the 69,000- to 138,000-line conversion, and when it does, we will be ready.”