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Danville Utilities' Kentuck and Whitmell substations are undergoing renovations.

DANVILLE, Va. — Danville is pushing to update its power grid by replacing old transformers at the Kentuck and Whitmell substations.

The city partnered with UtilityEngineering and Lekson Associates to find the most appropriate new transformers that work with Danville’s needs and budget.

A substation plays a role in electrical transmission and distribution. They transform electrical voltage from low to high and vice versa, depending on the need. A transformer is a passive instrument that transfers electricity from one circuit to another or several different circuits.

Not only is modern transformer technology being implemented, but new natural oil will be used in the updated transformers. Natural ester is seed oil dialectic fluid. It is increasingly being used as a replacement of mineral oil and high-temperature firepoint liquid in substations and transformers. This oil is biodegradable and would cause less harm to the environment if it is leaked from any instrument.

“This decision is being made because it is necessary,” said City Manager Ken Larking.    

City Electrical Engineer David Witcher gave reason to why the city has been moving to replace its substations.

“These substations now are 50 years old," Witcher said. "Their standard life is typically around 40. We would probably have more and more outages as time went by. This kind of nipped that in the bud and helps maintain better reliability. These new substations will serve well into the future… They’ll last probably 40-50 years if they’re taken care of.”

Jason Grey, director of Danville Utilities, noted that these substations would greatly befit the people they serve.

“We will be able to have more capacity with these substations if there is any additional residential or commercial growth in that area,” Grey said. “Our main goal here was to replace equipment that had reached the end of its life.”

If substations are left to decay after the 50-year mark, there could be major effects on local electricity grids. There is a potential for blackouts and general electrical outages.

“There were no outages related to the equipment themselves. It’s just reached the point that there could be if we didn’t replace the equipment,” Grey said.

Because the city has done work to replace the outdated substations, they have avoided the black-out problem and “nipped that in the bud.”

Grey discussed greater plans the city has on updating its electrical system.

“We’re working on more than just these two substations," Grey said. "We’re adding a fourth delivery point from Appalachian Power. We’re also replacing a couple substations here in Danville later this year as well. We have a very robust substation maintenance and upgrade program that we have implemented and are looking to complete in the coming years.”

Staff Writer

Tom Dixon is a staff writer for the Star-Tribune. Tom graduated from Longwood University and is a Chatham native.

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