By Megan Alley
The recent rash of power outages in New Richmond is related to work being done at Duke Energy’s substation on Bethel-New Richmond Road.
Throughout the past couple of months, customers have been affected by intermittent outages. The most recent one occurred on Dec.13, and left New Richmond Elementary, Middle and High Schools without power.
“It’s been very inconvenient,” Gary Skeene, village councilman, said. Skeene’s grandchildren are students at the elementary and middle schools.
Sally Thelen, spokesperson for Duke Energy, said the outages are caused by work being done to upgrade equipment at the substation, which is located across the street from the schools.
“We’ve been working to improve reliability in general on that circuit,” she said.
Thelen explained that in “more normal conditions,” if there is an outage – usually caused by weather, or encroachments from vegetation or animals – crews can move lines from one feed to another. However, the work being done on the substation involves replacing some equipment, and didn’t allow crews to switch lines to another circuit.
The work, which began in early fall, is expected to wrap up by the end of January 2018.
“What our hope was is that we would be able to make these upgrades to that equipment and then be able to bring it online in January, with hopefully no interruptions from weather or other outside issues,” Thelen said. “Unfortunately, we have had a weather storm that did create some issues, and we’ve had encroachments by vegetation that also caused additional outages, and animals.”
She added that crews have rectified the issue.
“From what I understand on our end, we’ve made some modifications to how we’re doing the work, so that we’ve been able to keep our workers safe, but also prevent these outages from creating bigger issues for a lot of the folks on the circuit, which has unfortunately been happening over the last eight weeks,” she said.
Representatives from Duke Energy have been in contact with local and school officials throughout the ordeal, according to Thelen.
“The last thing we ever want is a power outage to any of our customers; certainly when it impacts children in school, we take that very seriously,” she said. “We have assigned account managers to New Richmond Schools that have been in direct contact, letting them know the type of work we’re doing and the process that we’re adapting to make sure that hopefully they’re not going to be on the downstream of any additional outages,” she said. “We’re also hopeful that, weather permitting, during the Christmas break, we can really get a lot of heavy work done on our end done too, to help minimize any impacts to their school students.”
In the meantime, Thelen urged customers to call Duke Energy at 1-800-543-5599 when they experience a power outage.
“We always want to hear from any customer if they’re experiencing an outage; don’t assume that we know you’re out,” she said. “Make sure that you’re in touch with us as a customer.”
She added, “We can also proactively send outage alerts … that’s just a process you opt-in for with us.”
Thelen said that Duke Energy appreciates customers’ patience
“For us, reliability and safety are key, and we’re doing our best to get this resolved as quickly and safely for all of our customers,” she said.