Behind the scenes: Making reliability seamless

A lineman drills holes into a new pole for the cross arms. Photos by NICHOLAS SAKELARIS

Using an insulated extendo stick, a CoServ lineman flips the switches on a substation breaker box, cutting off power on a circuit that normally delivers power to thousands of Members in Aubrey and surrounding areas.

But on this brisk November morning, the work continued unbeknownst to Members with no interruption of service.

That’s because linemen rerouted the power, combining the load from multiple circuits onto one, a process called backfeeding. The mild weather that day meant there’s less load on the system, making it easier to combine circuits, explained Lineman Crew Supervisor Chris Hammonds.

“If it was really cold, everybody would be using their heaters and we probably couldn’t do it,” Chris said. “The weather being good means you can tie two circuits together and nothing gets overloaded.”

With two breaker bays off, the linemen set new poles and ran new wire that will connect to a previously unused breaker inside the Aubrey Substation. Though Members probably never knew this project was happening, the electricity service to their home will be even better than before.

A new pole is placed in the ground at the Aubrey substation.
A new pole is placed in the ground at the Aubrey substation.
Bolts are secured onto the new cross arm.
Bolts are secured onto the new cross arm.
New equipment is installed.
New equipment is installed.

“Having another substation breaker available will make the system more reliable, so if one circuit goes down, we can easily transfer it to another, even on a really hot or really cold day when electricity demand peaks,” Chris said. “That way, power is restored quickly while our line crew respond to the outage.”

It’s just another day for Chris and his line crew. There are always four crews on call after hours and on weekends to handle outages and other emergency situations. The linemen are on call one night a week and that day changes weekly.

But these daily tasks are just as important, especially for a utility growing as fast as CoServ. Every day they’re swapping out transformers, replacing old power lines to install higher capacity wire or moving poles for a street widening project.

If an outage occurs after hours, that means they miss time with their families, including birthday parties, youth sports and other milestones. The days can be long and grueling, the weather can be harsh and unforgiving and the work itself is dangerous and requires strict attention to detail and safety protocols.

So why do they do it?

“It’s not for everyone. You sometimes work with little to no sleep in weather most people wouldn’t dare go out in,” said Cody Coulter, Director of Operations. “It keeps you from your family but when you see the joy and thankfulness on a Member’s face after restoring power to their home, it makes all the sacrifices worth it.”

Help us thank a lineman and have your child’s work published in the April edition of Texas Co-op Power! Every submission will receive a CoServ bucket truck toy!

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