New PUD substation should limit number, length of Camano Island outages

CAMANO ISLAND — A new power substation will likely mean fewer and shorter power outages for people living on Camano Island, according to officials with the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

The PUD’s new $5 million Sunset substation at 152 W. Camano Hill Road, near the center of the island, was completed last month and is up and running.

Camano Island tends to have more and longer power outages than other parts of the PUD’s system not only because it has more trees to fall on power lines, but because it’s at an isolated edge of the PUD’s power grid, officials said. This limits the options for rerouting power from other substations during an outage.

When power goes out, electricity has to be shut off to circuits surrounding the source of the outage to allow crews to safely do repairs, said Scott Faries, senior manager for construction and distribution for the PUD. The longer the circuits, the larger the area that must be shut down.

In other areas, electricity can often be rerouted from a nearby substation, keeping the lights and heat on in more homes and businesses until the repairs can be made and the line reopened.

Before the new substation was built, Camano Island had only two stations, one toward the north end of the island and one farther south. There were no other options for rerouting power, and the long circuits between the two stations meant that a large area had to be shut off to make repairs, Faries said.

Now, the new substation has allowed the PUD to shorten many of its circuit lines on the island, expected to limit the area affected by outages. It also gives the utility another source of electricity and another option for routing power, Faries said.

“We’re right in the middle here so we can move each way,” he said in a visit to the station on Tuesday.

Previously, the northern Camano station served about 4,000 customers and the southern station 5,700, officials said.

Now, the northern station serves about 2,500, the southern station 3,700 and the new one in the middle serves about 3,500, Faries said.

Electrical hookups on the island have been increasing, another factor in the decision to build the station, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said. About 200 new customers connected to the grid in 2011, he said.

The new, 115-kilovolt substation is built on slightly less than an acre, with much of its fenced-off area left vacant to allow for expanding the station if necessary.

The PUD bought the property for the new station as part of its $5 million expenditure on the project, said Tom Hendricks, a substation engineer for the PUD. Work began last April and was finished in December.

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