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LMRE approves $18.4 million workplan

Includes new substation in Carlisle Twp., fiber-optic ring

The Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees approved a four-year, $18.4 million construction workplan that will feature a new substation in Carlisle Township and a fiber-optic communications system. 
The workplan, which was presented at the August board meeting by Engineering Services Manager Patrick Pifher, serves as one of the main supporting documents for the cooperative’s loan application to be filed later this year with the Rural Utilities Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
The main objectives of the workplan are to enhance system reliability by reducing outage exposure to the greatest number of members and to reduce the frequency of outages in specific areas. In addition, the workplan addresses facilities located in the cooperative’s growth areas, especially in the commercial sector. 
 The major expenditure in the workplan calls for a projected $1.8 million substation in Carlisle Township at a site yet to be determined. This would be the cooperative’s 16th substation and the latest since the Camden substation was built at Baumhart Road and U.S. Route 20 in 2009. 
The Carlisle substation will alleviate some of the load on the Robson Road substation in Eaton Township and on the Litchfield substation. It is expected the Carlisle substation will be built in 2017.  
Pifher said one of the operations department’s primary goals is to “balance loads” to keep the capacity of each of its substations below or near 50 percent. This 50 percent substation loading guideline allows two neighboring substations to pick up the load of a third substation that loses power. This is especially important when the cooperative loses transmission service to its substations from FirstEnergy. Using its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition computer system, the cooperative is able to “backfeed” by transferring power from adjacent substations, as long as they are served by a different transmission line.   
New, larger-capacity transformers will be installed in the Webster Road substation in LaGrange Township and the Litchfield substation. Those substation transformers will be transferred to increase the capacity at the Nova substation in Rochester Township and the Columbia Gas substation in Spencer Township. New cooling fans will be installed at the Central substation in Wellington Township, behind      LMRE’s office. 
The workplan also calls for construction of a fiber-optic ring with a larger bandwidth that will provide a secure communications path. “This is more reliable than radio and wireless communications,” Pifher said. The plan is to start with the 
Columbia Gas substation since it is only about a mile from the cooperative’s office. 
Throughout the course of the workplan, the cooperative will build or rebuild about 35 miles of three-phase line throughout the service territory. The total projected cost of these line rebuilds is $4.57 million. 
Financing the workplan, especially in times of limited growth, is an important consideration. Pifher believes the conservative workplan can successfully be worked into the annual budget. Completing the plan can be extended from four to six years, if economic conditions warrant. 
“It boils down to what you need to do and what the membership can afford to pay,” LMRE General Manager Markus Bryant told the board. “That is the reason why, for the past few years, we have annually increased the monthly service charge by a modest $2 a month. That’s how we’re able to maintain a high level of system reliability that our members have come to expect of LMRE.” 

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