A decommissioned North Dakota electric cooperative substation is finding a new purpose as an educational tool for current and future line technicians.
Instead of demolishing the 45-year-old substation when it no longer met local needs, Central Power Electric Cooperative, a Minot-based generation and transmission co-op, worked with the statewide association and Garrison-based McLean Electric Cooperative to disassemble it and relocate it to the Lineworker Training Center in Mandan, where it’s being reconstructed as a training facility.
“North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have a long history of working together to provide crucial training for the electric cooperative workforce,” said Josh Kramer, general manager and executive vice president for the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. “As the number of substations in the state continues to grow, the demand for substation and relay technicians is increasing.”
The statewide association and its members were among the first co-ops in the nation to support development of a permanent academic program to prepare apprentices for entry-level operations jobs with electric co-ops.
The 75-mile substation move, completed in September, cleared the way for its reassembly on NDAREC’s Mandan campus, which has been the training site for the Bismarck State College lineworker program for more than 52 years. It’s expected to be ready for training later this year.
“We plan to complete reassembly of the major substation components such as structural steel, switches, buswork, jumpers, transformers and regulators this fall,” said Mark Sherman, CPEC’s manager of operations and engineering.
The reassembled substation will not be energized, and no insulating mineral oil will be pumped into transformers for cooling, heat exchange or insulation, but a three-phase transformer and three single-phase transformers will be added to the site.
“This will allow students and our current co-op workforce training opportunities on various transformer designs, reinforcing their familiarity with connections they are likely to encounter on the job,” Sherman said. “This substation will help introduce trainees to components typically used in distribution substations and will hopefully help young line technicians be more comfortable within distribution substations.”
“In North Dakota, substation technicians are primarily electricians and lineworkers who have acquired their skills learning on the job,” Kramer added. “Having a substation for training purposes provides a level of safety and helps to build workers’ confidence as they learn the skills of the trade.”
The statewide association is currently working with its member distribution co-ops to source surplus circuit reclosers and other essential equipment commonly used in substations connected to co-op systems. They also want to secure funding to install a Timpson training unit, which would energize lines and the substation to safe, non-lethal levels for training.
The substation donation supports long-range expansion goals of Bismarck State College, which hopes to add both substation and relay technician training to its curriculum. Those programs are aimed at addressing future demand sparked by energy development and expansion of other industries in North Dakota.
“The demand for electricity in North Dakota has grown significantly over the past several years, resulting in the need for more robust and modern facilities and upgrades to existing substations,” said Christina Roemmich, the statewide association’s director of safety services. “Apprenticeship programs allow on-the-job learning, which are key to attracting and training the skilled workforce essential to maintaining electric reliability.”