Site Acquisition, Construction and Commissioning Process For New Substation

Site Acquisition:

At this stage, a footprint of the station has been developed, including the layout of the major equipment. A decision on the final location of the facility can now be made, and various options can be evaluated. Final grades, roadways, storm-water retention, and environmental issues are addressed at this stage, and required permits are identified and obtained. Community and political acceptance must be achieved, and details of station design are negotiated in order to achieve consensus. Depending on local zoning ordinances, it may be prudent to make settlement on the property contingent upon successfully obtaining zoning approval, since the site is of little value to the utility without such approval.

It is not unusual for engineering, real estate, public affairs, legal, planning, operations, and customer service personnel- along with various levels of management- to be involved in the decisions during this phase. The first round of permit applications can now begin. While the zoning application is usually a local government issue, permits for grading, storm water management, roadway access, and other environmental or safety concerns are typically handled at the state or provincial level, and they may be federal issues in the case of wetlands or other sensitive areas. Other federal permits may also be necessary, such as those for aircraft warning lights for any tall towers or masts in the station.

Permit applications are subject to unlimited bureaucratic manipulation and typically require multiple submissions and could take many months to reach conclusion. Depending on the local ordinances, zoning approval may be automatic or may require hearings that could stretch across many months. Zoning applications with significant opposition could take years to resolve.

Design, Construction, and Commissioning Process:

Once the site location has been selected, the design, construction, and commissioning process would broadly follow the steps shown in. Recent trends in utilities have been toward sourcing design and construction of substations through a competitive bidding process to ensure capital efficiency and labor productivity.

Flow Chart Illustrating Steps Involved in Establishing a New Substation
Flow Chart Illustrating Steps Involved in Establishing a New Substation

Station Design:

Now the final detailed designs can be developed along with all the drawings necessary for construction. The electrical equipment and all the other materials can now be ordered and detailed schedules for all disciplines negotiated. Final manpower forecasts must be developed and coordinated with other business units. It is imperative that all stakeholders be aware of the design details and understands what needs to be built and when it needs to be completed to meet the in-service date. Once the designs are completed and the drawings published, the remaining permits can be obtained.

Related: New Substation Budgeting, Financing And Designing

Station Construction:

With permits in hand and drawings published, the construction of the station can begin. Site logistics and housekeeping can have a significant impact on the acceptance of the facility. Parking for construction personnel, traffic routing, truck activity, trailers, fencing, lack of mud and dirt control, along with trash and noise can be major irritations for neighbors, so attention to these details is essential for achieving community acceptance. All the civil, electrical, and electronic systems are installed at this time. Proper attention should also be paid to site security during the construction phase, not only to safeguard the material and equipment, but also to protect the public.

Station Commissioning:

Once construction is complete, testing of various systems can commence and all punch-list items can be addressed. Environmental cleanup must be undertaken before final landscaping can be installed. Note that, depending upon the species of plants involved, it may be prudent to delay final landscaping until a more favorable season in order to insure optimal survival of the foliage. Public relations personnel can make the residents and community leaders aware that the project is complete, and the station can be made functional and turned over to the operating staff.

Source: Electric Power Substations Engineering

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