City OKs study on electric system

Every year, Holton’s city department heads meet with the Holton City Commission to discuss their budget proposals for the next year as well as hear updates on what those departments may need to run more smoothly in the longer term.

But at Monday’s commission meeting, one of those department heads — electrical production supervisor Craig Figge — told commissioners of issues with the city’s aging tie transformer that provides electric power to city customers and, more importantly, may need to be replaced sooner than later, even though the transformer appears to be working fine at the present time.

Commissioners authorized Figge to seek an engineering study on updating the city’s electric production system — an update that may involve replacing the tie transformer, which Figge said has been in use since 1976 — with the estimated $25,000 cost of the study to be covered by funds raised by the city’s half-cent sales tax for infrastructure improvements.

Tie transformers connect various electric power sources that sell power to the city, group those sources together and send the collected power to the city’s grid for distribution to utility customers. In Holton’s case, the tie transformer is capable of handling up to eight megawatts of power from sources such as the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency’s municipal power pool and Oklahoma’s Grand River Dam Authority.

But as Figge reminded commissioners, the city’s power load is about 13 megawatts during the summer months, and Figge’s department has to generate five megawatts of its own power to meet the city’s electric needs. In 2021, his department generated about 2.2 million kilowatt hours over a four-month period to meet that need, and the department’s fuel cost for generation that year was about $157,000.

The next year, the electrical production department generated about the same amount of power over a five-month period — “the heat came in earlier,” Figge said — but the fuel cost for generation that year jumped to about $274,000. Because of the increased fuel costs, he added, his department “made no revenue off those kilowatts… it was all eaten up by fuel.”

Figge said if the fuel costs were not so high, his department could be putting money away to purchase a new tie transformer, which is “nearly 50 years old” and “having to be maxed out more often than it used to be.” If the city’s tie transformer fails, he said, his department would have to run generators around the clock, and that $274,000 in fuel “would only buy us about 13 to 22 days of generation time.”

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The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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