POWER Engineers (POWER) helped American Electric Power (AEP) successfully complete the longest replacement of energized conductor in the United States and bring more reliable power to the residents of South Texas. The project has earned AEP the electric power industry’s most prestigious honor, the Edison Award. The Edison Electric Institute award recognizes AEP’s leadership and innovation in replacing conductor on two 345 kV transmission lines. The lines begin in Corpus Christi and supply the majority of power to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 120 miles to the south.

“Completion of the project helps guarantee reliable electricity in South Texas for years to come,” says Erik Ruggeri, senior project engineer with POWER. As the engineer of record, POWER worked closely with AEP’s contractor to design a temporary single-phase line that allowed the entire 240 circuit-miles to be replaced with aluminum conductor composite core while energized. It involved installing more than 1,440 miles of advanced conductor on the 240 circuit-miles.

Keeping the line energized meant that AEP’s customers could run their air conditioners, charge their cell phones, or watch TV without interruption while AEP improved the reliability of the electric grid to meet a huge growth in demand. Lower Rio Grande Valley population has grown about 30 percent since 2000 and continues to expand.

“Because the lines were being replaced while energized, substation construction became the determining factor in terms of outage duration,” reports Joel Lankutis, the substation project engineer for POWER.” Coming up with a design that could actually be constructed under these outage constraints was the biggest challenge.”

POWER’s services included outage planning as well as scheduling and coordinating work on the stations and replacing the conductor. Engineering and construction had to be carefully placed in sequence and coordinated to make the most of the limited planned outages. POWER also expedited the protection and control center design to meet the construction schedule for a prefabricated control building. AEP focused on the transmission system upgrade after extremely cold temperatures in February 2011 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley triggered record peak electricity demand. POWER also provided engineering design services for the complete overhaul of the Lon Hill substation at Corpus Christi, where both 345 kV lines originate, and for work at four other 345 kV substations south of the city.

POWER Engineers is a global consulting engineering firm specializing in the delivery of integrated solutions for energy, food and beverage, facilities, communications, environmental, and federal markets. POWER offers multidiscipline engineering, architectural, and program management services. Founded in 1976, it is an employee-owned company with more than 2,100 employees and 45 offices throughout the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.powereng.com.