New transformer online in Morgan City

From left, Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi and City Utilities Director Bill Cefalu look at the control panel for the city’s power system located at the capacitor bank substation on Youngs Road.
(The Daily Review Photo by Crystal Thielepape)

Nearly two years after the city’s main transformer caught fire at the Joseph Cefalu Sr. Municipal Steam Plant the city’s new 112-megawatt transformer was put online Monday at the capacitor bank substation on Youngs Road.
“It’s been a long time coming really to get this thing installed. It puts Morgan City in pretty good shape as a state-of-the-art electrical facility as far as this transformer is concerned and the upgrades we made alongside of it,” Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi said. The new transformer arrived to the site in August 2013.
That transformer that caught fire and exploded June 26, 2012, was replaced by the 50-megawatt transformer still being used at the steam plant. The transformer at the steam plant will be used as a backup to the 112-megawatt transformer, Grizzaffi said.
“The installation of this new transformer also has breakers in front of it so we won’t have a catastrophic event like we had on the old transformer,” Grizzaffi said. The city has taken lots of safety measures to help prevent such an event, he said.
The fiber optic loop will consist of connecting all the city’s power substations to a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA system, at the capacitor bank, the mayor said. “A lot of things we would normally do manually, now we’ll be able to do it through our computer,” Grizzaffi said. “I think the days of the entire city shutting down are soon to be over.”
The equipment being installed will put the city on par with some big cities in terms of the power system, Grizzaffi said. City workers began putting a small load on the transformer last week and are gradually transferring the city’s power load to the new transformer, Grizzaffi said. “I think over the next week we’ll be fully dependent on this new transformer,” Grizzaffi said.
The city is on its way to having a much more stable electrical system, Grizzaffi said. On June 26, 2012, the city’s old transformer at the Joseph Cefalu Sr. Steam Plant caught fire. That old transformer used to handle the entire city, the mayor said.
On Monday afternoon, City Utilities Director Bill Cefalu said the Unit 4 generator and 50-megawatt transformer at the steam plant were helping to carry the city’s power load while the 112-megawatt transformer gradually went online.
Right now, the city’s power usage has been around 32 megawatts, Cefalu said. The city’s peak usage is about 47 megawatts, he said. A 138 kV breaker comes in to the capacitor bank from the Cleco tie-in to protect the transformer, Cefalu said. The transformer takes the 138 kV breaker and transforms it to 69 kV, which then feeds into the mini-substation, Cefalu said.
The fiber optic loop is not yet closed because the full SCADA system is not in place, Cefalu said. The loop will give the ability to isolate a fault in a power line in order to keep the power substations online, he said. City workers are finishing installing breakers at the city’s East Boulevard substation, Cefalu said.
During the winter, the city will take the 112-megawatt transformer offline for maintenance and put the 50-megawatt transformer online to run the city, Cefalu said.
The new transformer will be able to handle the city’s entire power load, Grizzaffi said. Using the secondary transformer as a backup will give the city a much more stable system, Grizzaffi said.
“Up until today, we had to depend on the steam plant, which a lot of times, is not dependable,” Grizzaffi said. “That put our city at risk of having to have rolling blackouts.”
A 2.25-mil power bill surcharge was put in place by the city council in 2013 and then extended through 2014 to pay for costs associated with installing the transformer not covered by insurance and to complete the city’s fiber optic loop, Grizzaffi said.
Once the new Louisiana Energy and Power Authority plant is completed, power generated from there may be the city’s cheapest option for power, Grizzaffi said.
The transformer cost $1.2 million, most of which was covered by insurance along with installation costs, the mayor said. “Our system was so antiquated, there’s a lot of protection measures we wanted to add. We’ve been able to add all of that with the extension of the surcharge,” Grizzaffi said.

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

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