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Cooperative project upgrades service to hospital

Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) has installed, activated and tested new switching equipment in South Hill that will further enhance service provided to the hospital and other members.

Over two days in January, SEC crews, along with a representative from the manufacturer, mounted the 4,000-pound switchgear on a concrete pad, leveled, connected and tested it before putting the equipment into operation around dark on the second day, finishing a project that had been nine months in the planning.

Additional successful testing was completed March 7.

Brad Furr, vice president of operations for SEC, said the new equipment fully automates the process of supplying electricity to VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital from either of the Cooperative’s Brunswick or Gary substations. Doing that previously required manual intervention by a system operator in Crewe. The equipment more readily allows the switching from one substation to the other.

“We aspired to reduce the possibility of human error when switching in the area of the VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital,” Furr said. “The Eaton PST9 also automates the process of switching between electrical sources, speeding the process of moving the hospital between electrical sources.”

Cole Stevenson, a senior sales engineer with Eaton, said the equipment provides another redundancy for SEC in providing electricity to the hospital. That’s important in the case of a tornado or other weather problem affecting one of the substations. He said the chance of a storm hitting two substations is less.

For the cooperative, the work strengthens its partnership with the hospital. Witness to that was that 20 SEC employees, including several senior managers, were on site for the installation and energizing.

“SEC takes its relationship with VCU Health CMH very seriously,” Furr said. “Like SEC and the service we provide, we understand the positive impact VCU hospital has on our community. We want to support that partnership to continue adding value to rural Virginia.”

Furr noted Cooperative members near the hospital will realize more robust electric service following the distribution system project.

Another benefit to the new equipment, he said, is SEC will now be notified when the switchgear logs an abnormal condition. This will occur through supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), a computerized system for collecting and analyzing information.

“It is nearly as good as having someone standing next to the unit in the field,” Furr said.