Vermillion Light & Power celebrates

Vermillion Light & Power celebrates Nineteen ninety-nine marks the 85th year of the Vermillion Light and Power department. The citizens of Vermillion purchased the distribution system in 1914. Throughout the 85 years, Vermillion Light & Power has provided dependable electricity at stable rates to the residents and businesses of the city. Currently this municipal utility serves 3558 residential customers, 466 commercial customers and 74 city-owned facilities.

Vermillion Light & Power maintains the Robert D. Brown Substation that houses both a 10MVA substation and a 12MVA substation. The Bottom and East substations also remain on the distribution system.

Western Area Power Association (WAPA) currently provides approximately 80 percent of the department's power, while the remainder is provided by Missouri River Energy Services. The alliance with WAPA and Missouri River Energy Services has aided Vermillion Light & Power in its effort to improve service in all aspects of the municipal electric business.

The city of Vermillion is a non-profit municipality that provides several services to the community. The Light & Power department serves electricity to Vermillion residents and businesses and continually upgrades the electrical distribution system to improve service while keeping rates steady. The last rate increase was in December 1993.

Electrical Superintendent Mike Hays said, "In the past, our department has focused on keeping our customers satisfied through reliable electricity and prompt service. Our department is proud to have served the community for so many years and we look forward to many more."

Various improvements have been made to the system throughout the past several years to justify this pride. An independent electrical consultant recommended the improvements in early 1989. The electrical consultant issued a study of the distribution system, which outlines deficiencies in the system that could potentially affect customers if not rectified. "Some of our customers were receiving Class B service rather than Class A service and that was just unacceptable," Hays said.

The study showed severe voltage problems on the 2.4kV system during summer peak times. If one of the substations were to fail, the city could have suffered a "brown out" condition. A few substations were found to be nearing the end of their useful life. The study resulted in a three phase project to upgrade, replace and eliminate certain substations and to convert the 2.4kV system to 13.8kV. The project would occur over eight years and require an investment of over $2 million.

The three-phase project

Phase I began in 1992 with the conversion of 2.4kV overhead to 13.8kv underground in the southwest area of the city. Prior to Phase I, the Robert D. Brown Substation housed only two breakers. Additional breakers were installed for the 12MVA and 10 MVA substations. A new building was constructed to house the new breakers. The additional breakers were necessary in an effort to reduce outages that would affect large portions of the city.

Phase II was started in 1994. This phase addressed the need to retire certain substations that no longer proved useful and economic. Substations eliminated were the North Substation on Cottage, Park Substation on Plum and the Power Plant Substation located on Chestnut. The 13.8kV conversion project continued by removing overhead lines in alleys between Pine and Plum, south of Cherry Street to Valley View and east to Adams and Bulow Street.

Phase III in 1997 included the installation of a direct circuit to Polaris as a two-way feeder or "loop." A loop allows the customer to get power from another source if the main power source is out of commission. Burying underground 13.8kV continued south on Stanford, through Main Street, and dropping over the hill at Franklin Street.

Underground conversion

Converting overhead 2.4kV to underground 13.8kV has proved highly advantageous. Underground power lines are less susceptible to storm damage, eliminated the need for tree trimming, is more pleasant for residents and is generally safer for the public.

An area that is visibly more pleasing are the alleys south of Cherry Street between Pine and Plum. The city Light & Power crews are continuing the 13.8kV underground project in the areas of Catalina, Valley View and Lewis.

In 1984, the amount of overhead line totaled 80 percent. Fourteen years later, overhead lines occupy only 20 percent of the distribution system, with the remaining 80 percent being underground. One statistic of underground success is the number of overhead outages versus underground outages. From 1993 to 1998, the number of underground outages was half of the overhead outages.

Looking ahead

The Light & Power Department has a reason to celebrate in 1999. Remodeling of the City Service Center is under way and will be completed in September. The remodeled shop will be more customer friendly and will furnish the employees with office space. Construction began in 1998 with a 100 foot expansion of the City Service Center.

Vermillion Light & Power will host its first annual customer appreciation day the first week in October, in conjunction with National Public Power Week. Look for a flyer announcing the event in the Plain Talk. Cari Jo Skonhovd, electric operations specialist, said, "We are owned by our customers and we greatly appreciate them. We are striving to show them our gratitude and our devotion to the continued success of our community."

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