PUD Beginning Construction of new Fairgrounds Substation

June 21, 2013 – Columbia River People’s Utility District (PUD) is constructing a new substation in St. Helens. The Fairgrounds Substation will be located on Bachelor Flat Road, near the Columbia County Fairgrounds, and is expected to be energized in early 2014. It will accommodate growth in the St. Helens and Warren areas and provide an alternate source of power for customers served by neighboring PUD substations.

“Construction of the Fairgrounds Substation is part of our multi-year substation improvement plan,” said Engineering & Operations Manager Steve Hursh. “In addition to building this new substation, we are replacing aging equipment and creating vital links between our substations that will help us continue to provide reliable service to our customers.”

The PUD purchased the substation property from Columbia County in 2010. The site was chosen for its proximity to BPA transmission lines and to west St. Helens and Warren, which are two areas where residential development is expected.

The parcel of land where the substation will be built includes an access road that was previously used by a neighboring racetrack and baseball field. Once construction fencing is erected, visitors to these facilities will use an alternate route.

The PUD is using local companies for several parts of the substation construction project. Lower Columbia Engineering of St. Helens provided the design work for the required street improvements and site drainage at the substation property. In October 2010, TFT Construction of Scappoose completed the street improvements, including curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.

Temporary construction fencing will be installed beginning July 1. On July 8, Lonny Brady Excavating of Warren will begin to prepare the site for the 50-ton transformer, the steel structure, and other substation equipment. A small control house will contain specialized equipment that will remotely control and monitor the substation.

Substations play a vital role in the electrical grid. A transformer in the substation takes high-voltage electricity from the transmission lines and reduces it to a lower voltage that is sent out onto the distribution lines that run throughout the PUD’s service area. A single substation can serve several thousand homes and businesses. Within the PUD’s service area, adjoining substations are linked together so that if one substation is affected by an outage or is taken out of service for maintenance, its customers can be served by another substation.

In 2012, the PUD replaced a 50-year old transformer at the Scappoose Substation with a new, larger transformer that is identical to the one that will be installed in the new Fairgrounds Substation. Similar transformers will be purchased to replace older transformers at the Rosehill Substation in St. Helens in 2015 and at the St. Helens Substation in 2017.

The PUD pays for its substation improvements and other capital projects with cash reserves, which eliminates the need for long-term borrowing. This helps keep electric rates affordable and stable.

Hursh expects the site work to be complete by August, and the transformer and control house to be installed by October.