Engineers to study electric grid

CITY COMMISSIONERS this week approved having DGR engineers update a long-range plan for Madison's electric distribution system. The above photo shows some of the electric system improvements, upgrades to a higher-voltage distribution level and ground-level equipment that were completed this summer due to information provided by a similar 2012 study.

City commissioners on Tuesday approved hiring DGR Engineering of Rock Rapids, Iowa, to perform an update to the Madison's long-range plan regarding the city's electric system.

Madison previously had an electric-planning study completed in 2012. Using information from that study, city officials decided to improve Madison's electric grid, and the work emphasized converting the municipal electricity distribution system from a 4.16 kilovolt distribution voltage level to a 13.8 kV level.

After an annual improvement program that took place during the last eight years, Madison's conversion to a 13.8 kV system was completed in a significant sense this summer.

By switching to a higher distribution voltage level, Madison's electric utility should have less of a voltage drop and its system should provide more power for the available electric current. Higher-voltage systems also have decreased line losses. Due to decreased voltage losses and greater electrical capacity, any higher voltage circuits can extend into far wider distribution areas.

In the agreement that was approved earlier this week, the DGR engineers referred to the significant changes to the Madison electric grid that have occurred during the last eight years. They want to study the continuation of Madison's electric load growth and "...determine if any other improvements are required in order to maintain satisfactory service."

Brad Lawrence, municipal utility director, told the city commissioners that Madison's current long-range plan for its electric distribution system was outdated.

"We need to do a new plan," Lawrence said.

He added that city officials need the updated study to make sense of what they needed to do "dollar-wise" and to collect the best ideas for what direction the city should take in the future.

During the discussion, George Lee, a Madison resident, asked about the study's cost. DGR Engineering proposed to perform the work for $29,600

DGR engineers will review the projections, conclusions and recommendations that were part of the 2012 study. They will also speak with city staff about the municipal electric grid's performance and gather opinions about the grid's performance, weaknesses, load-growth areas and future development.

The study's goals include the development of an updated load-growth projection for Madison's electric system. Using information from computer models and projected electric loads, the engineers will assess the ability of Madison's electric distribution system to handle any expected future loads. They will develop alternative fixes to correct any deficiencies to the distribution system found through the analysis and estimate the costs associated with any improvements.