A More Resilient Substation

Joe Duggan, Communications

April 13, 2023

To glimpse a world powered by a more resilient electrical grid, start with a single substation in Joplin, Missouri.



Like all substations, this one receives electricity delivered by transmission lines. Transformers step down the power, which then flows through distribution lines to residential and commercial customers. At its most basic level, the substation serves as a crossroads where higher voltage comes in, lower voltage goes out.

But this substation is more than basic. Olsson’s Jacob Bradley, who helped engineer the Joplin project, knows all about the capability this substation brings in helping Liberty Utilities serve its customers.

“The cool thing about this substation that others don’t do is that it will automatically heal itself,” said Jacob, a team leader in Olsson’s Power program. “So, if one of the power transformers were to go down, it would automatically reconfigure. It has two power transformers that are redundant, so it can pretty much restore itself.”



More Than an Upgrade

Liberty Utilities, which owns and manages the substation, has been systematically working to upgrade its electrical network. Liberty Utilities successfully maintains a system that was designed and constructed decades ago, when electrical vehicles and video calls existed only in the pages of science fiction. But all equipment, no matter how well-designed, built, and durable, will eventually reach the end of its optimal functionality.

To help harden its network, Liberty Utilities opted to replace the outdated substation with a new installation featuring a more resilient ring bus configuration. A ring bus better protects a substation from faults caused by lightning, wind, tree branches, downed lines, and just about anything that can damage electrical distribution equipment.

“There are a lot of things that can happen,” Jacob said. “Like a car could hit a pole and take out a section of line. Now, that won’t take out the whole substation. Repair crews will be able to isolate the problem to just the circuit that it’s on, and the substation will reconfigure itself so everything that can still be served will continue to have power.”

In the wake of polar vortex events that have caused catastrophic power outages, utilities are committed to adding redundancy and resilience to their networks.



All Services by Olsson

We worked in partnership with Liberty Utilities to provide every service our client needed to complete the project. This included land survey, geotechnical study and analysis, and design of the substation’s control house foundation. We also provided civil, mechanical, and structural engineering for development of the site and infrastructure.

Engineers and technicians who are members of our Power team rerouted the transmission and distribution lines coming into and leaving the new substation. They also configured wiring, relays, steel structures, and more.

“We brought in a lot of our people on this project,” Jacob said. “That’s truly one of the things that sets Olsson apart for our power delivery clients – we can provide all services in-house.”