The Denton City Council and Public Utilities Board will learn more about a proposed five-year, $208 million capital improvement project for Denton Municipal Electric at a joint meeting Monday morning.
Assistant City Manager Howard Martin hinted at the scope of the project during a first look at the 2012-13 budget last month, telling the City Council that much of the work was needed in order to bring the city’s electrical grid into compliance with North American Electric Reliability Corp.
Agenda materials on the city’s website show the scope and scale of the overhaul, which touches nearly every area of the city and calls for $60 million in bonds to be issued in 2013.
In a cover memo to the board and council, Martin said that the city needed to move forward many projects that had been scheduled 10 years into the future, in part because of problems the system experienced during last summer’s record heat and drought.
DME General Manager Phil Williams said Friday that the utility knew the system needed large-scale capital improvement projects for some time, but delayed work because of the uncertain economy.
For a variety of reasons, the city’s electrical demand hasn’t really abated since 2008, Williams said. Moreover, DME got a glimpse of what could happen if a transformer were to fail, as one did last August, and be unable to be brought back online.
The call came on a Saturday, Williams said, at the end of a long, hot week when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees most of the state’s electric grid, had made repeated requests for conservation as demand had reached the state’s capacity to generate electricity. A transformer, dating from 1962, had taken itself out of service.
“We were concerned that it had reached the end of its life,” Williams said.
Crews reviewed data for several hours and decided the transformer could be put back into service.
“It was fine,” Williams said. “But if it had not been OK, we might not have had enough transmission capability.”
In other words, the city faced the possibility of its own rolling blackouts during the heat of the day. Some of the city’s 69-kilovolt transmission system is 50 years old. The 138-kilovolt transmission loop around the city is 25 years old.
Moreover, DME spokesman Brian Daskam pointed to a recent U.S. Census report ranking Denton as the seventh fastest-growing city in the country.
“Electric utilities are one of those entities where it’s very important to plan ahead and think long-term,” Daskam said.
About $89.7 million in projects are needed to improve reliability. Another $80.7 million is needed to replace aging equipment both in transmission and distribution. About $38 million in projects are growth-related.
The proposed projects include $102.5 million to replace or build new substations and another $90.2 million in transmission lines.
New substations planned for the north and east sides of the city would be among the first projects to proceed next year.
Monday’s meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the DME Engineering Operations building, 1685 Spencer Road.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
BY THE NUMBERS
Here is a summary of the proposed capital improvement projects under a $208 million plan to expand and upgrade Denton Municipal Electric facilities from 2013 to 2017.
New substations — 11
Major station additions — 4
Minor station additions — 6
Station replacement — 15
Relay and control — 1
Transmission line — 13
SOURCE: City of Denton