DURANGO, Colo. – To ensure reliability of the electrical system and protect valued substation equipment as well as wildlife in the region, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) has implemented a construction program to install non-lethal electric fencing in substations throughout the cooperative’s service territory.
“In 2014, LPEA got quite a bit of notoriety across the country as a photo of an albino raccoon electrocuted in our Bodo Park substation went viral,” said Justin Talbot, LPEA manager of operations. “About 450 LPEA consumer-members, mostly businesses in the area, were knocked out of power because of the raccoon’s unfortunate visit. It was essentially a final straw and we began our research for a solution.”
The multi-year study has resulted in a program to install TransGard electric fencing around the large transformers in all of LPEA’s substations. A transformer within a substation is essentially the “off-ramp” for the high voltage energy traveling along the transmission lines to the area. The transformer “transforms” the power to lower voltage for safe delivery to the surrounding neighborhood. During the “transformation” process, however, the voltage is high enough to electrocute visiting animals.
“Next to weather-related damage, animal intrusions are among the most common causes of substation outages,” said Talbot. “Any variety of animal intrusion can cause problems, but our typical intruders are raccoons and squirrels who have for some reason chosen to try to keep warm on the top of energized transformers.”
In 2016, LPEA tested the new TransGard fencing in the Bodo substation, which, according to Talbot, has proven over the years to be one of the most popular for local animals. Since then, LPEA has installed the fences in the Falfa (Florida Mesa) and Westside (Greenmount Cemetery area) substations, as well as the Piedra substation in Pagosa Springs – all of which were identified as primary attractions for small wildlife. A schedule is now established, including budgeting, and steadily the fencing will be installed in all of LPEA’s 22 substations.
“It’s a tight mesh fence energized with low voltage that essentially tells a critter that touches it, whoa, I’m not going there,” said Talbot, noting that the fence surrounds the perimeter of just the transformer, which is within the locked, fenced substation, so there should be no human contact. “The TransGard fence is buried several inches into the ground, so even if a critter endeavors to bury under, they’ll get a small deterrent jolt of electricity. It will not kill them.”
Since placement of the fences at the initially-targeted substations, LPEA has had no animal-caused outages on those sections of the system, which Talbot notes is a win-win for all. While installation cost at each substation varies, Talbot assures that when evaluating the cost of an outage, loss of business to those affected by an outage and damage to the substation equipment, there is no comparison.
“The installations of the TransGard in each substation have now paid for themselves, multiple times over,” he said. “It’s a great safety measure to protect our consumer-members’ assets and ensure reliability of electricity service, as well as protection of our wildlife. We look forward to completing the project.”
LPEA, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative established in 1939, provides to its more than 30,000 members, with in excess of 42,000 meters, safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible. For additional information, call 970.245.5786 or visit www.lpea.coop.