Working Together for the Greater Grid
Rusty Hartman, Power
April 14, 2022
This article originally appeared in Electric Energy, the magazine published by RMEL.
Modernizing an electrical substation requires careful planning, precise coordination, and flawless execution. Completing the upgrades without unplanned service interruptions to thousands of customers amps up the challenge by a considerable degree.
Yet that’s the challenge Evergy confronted when upgrading a key substation in Kansas City, Missouri. The substation serves a variety of homes and businesses in the region, including a major industrial customer.
To help coordinate and execute the transformation of the substation into a complete 161-kilovolt, six-breaker ring bus, Evergy relied on Olsson under an on-call consulting agreement.
Our contribution included the planning, scheduling, and design necessary to replace three 161/13.09-kV transformers and their associated buses, relocation of two 161-kV transmission line terminals, and replacement or addition of 14 control and protection relay panels. The project also involved installation of six new circuit breakers, four new combination circuit switches and double-end break disconnects, 14 vertical break disconnect switches, 10 coupling capacitor voltage transformers, and all associated equipment and materials needed for a complete substation installation.
Key members of Olsson’s Power Delivery program in Kansas City worked together with Evergy personnel to help define, schedule, and plan the six phases of design and construction work needed to complete the project. Olsson also provided construction observation and completed essential reports, all while coordinating with Evergy’s engineers to help keep the project on time, on budget and without an unplanned service interruption.
The project is an example of infrastructure upgrades that Evergy has completed under the Plant in Service Accounting (PISA) program. The program allows for a major undertaking of construction and maintenance through Evergy’s capital plan that is focused on replacing aging transformers, breakers, and panels.
The overall goal is to strengthen grid reliability for an energy utility that serves 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.
Our partnership on these projects has led Olsson to serve in the ongoing roles of program manager and the owner’s engineer. We have provided specialized supplemental staffing, implemented program management protocols, developed project metrics tracking, created document-control systems, and established a system for tracking and verifying consultant peer reviews and change orders.
In facilitating the role of program manager, Olsson created a portal to coordinate five consultants and multiple contractors as they simultaneously complete work on dozens of projects. With so many entities involved, coordination and collaboration are the keys to completing the projects as efficiently as possible.
We use collaborative software to frame and operate the portal, which makes every conceivable piece of information related to these projects available at the click of a mouse. The dashboards display key support contacts, risk and deliverable reports, PISA program updates, drawings for scoping, Evergy Services, Inc., (ESI) standards, contract documents, equipment purchase orders, change order requests, bar graphs displaying project counts, and percentage of work completed on active projects.
It’s fair to say that this greater capacity to manage scheduling, coordination, and collaboration is game-changing. Here’s an analogy: Without these tools and the right people to run them, you might be able to walk and text at the same time. With them, you might be able to text while riding a unicycle … on a tight rope.
Olsson’s maintenance of the information portal also frees Evergy’s staff from the administrative burden of scheduling and documenting multiple concurrent projects. Every consultant and contractor can easily access dashboards that allow the standardization of schedules, document management, project reporting, and even budgeting.
Maintaining a high degree of consistency and transparency in project tracking makes the work and coordination easier across all teams. Importantly, the software keeps all information secure and allows the owner to decide what information is shared across the platform, and what information is not.
Meanwhile, the Olsson employees assigned to the roles of the owner’s engineers oversee the different design teams and ensure the work meets the quality standards established by Evergy. This allows the utility’s staff engineers to focus on the critical and complex technical aspects of myriad projects that include total substation rebuilds, greenfield construction, geotechnical investigations, and installation of fiber optic for network communication.
Catastrophic weather events during the past year have demonstrated the need to strengthen the electrical grid. At the same time, demand for our existing delivery resources continues to climb. The stakes simply couldn’t be higher for the communities we serve.
No single entity can do it alone. We need to work smarter, not harder.
Addressing big challenges requires innovative approaches that allow us to deploy solutions more efficiently and easily. Collaboration between utilities, engineering consultants, and contractors that leverages readily available technology is essential to helping us execute highly complex projects like the Kansas City substation rebuild.
By reducing barriers, together we can do more to build greater resiliency into the grid.
Rusty Hartman, PE, leads Olsson’s Power program and has extensive experience in substation, transmission, and distribution projects. Reach Rusty at 417.483.2275 or firstname.lastname@example.org