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Upgrades start at Nelson’s Mill Street substation

Nelson Hydro has started its $8.3 million upgrades to Nelson’s Mill Street substation, which is expected to be complete by August of next year.  

The substation was built in 1958 and was expanded in the 1980s. In 2021 a critical transformer failed and was deemed uneconomical to repair, which moved up the planned upgrade of the substation by a year.  

Casey Smit, project and customer service manager with Nelson Hydro, says that generally the life expectancy of a substation is about 40 years, hence the need to update the Mill Street station.  

Smit says the upgrades are necessary to improve the systems reliability to avoid unplanned equipment failures.  

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“Equipment failures can lead to long outages,” he says “So as equipment gets older, it’s generally scheduled for replacement after about 40 years. It just becomes less reliable over time and requires a higher amount of service, and these substations are difficult to replace on short notice. There are long lead times for a lot of equipment.” 

Once replaced, Smit says the new equipment and protection control systems should reduce outage lengths and increase the capacity of the substation to account for the city’s forecasted growth.  

Nelson Hydro services about 10,500 customers in the city through three different substations. Currently the current Mill Street substation services around 5,860 residents. Smit says once upgraded, the substation could provide power to the entire city, if necessary. 

“It would be very rare for that to happen as we’d never operate in this configuration normally, but the capacity would be there to supply the entire city if required.” 

The construction process is not expected to have a significant impact on residents. However, during the duration there will be no parking on the 1200 block of Mill Street to make room for construction crews. A few road closures may occur as well due to oversized loads transporting equipment to the project site.

“When those [road closures] occur, there will be traffic management plans in place and residents will be notified of impacts,” Smit says “The construction has been staged such that there should be no residential power outages. If there is a need for a limited scope power outage, we will notify residents well in advance, but none are expected at this point.”

Residents with inquiries about the project, upcoming Nelson Hydro budget rates and other operations can attend Nelson Hydro’s annual open houses on Sept. 28 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Nelson Innovation Center and again on Oct. 12 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Balfour Community Hall.  

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