Preparation for a historic windstorm does not start a few days or hours before the storm, it takes years of research, work, long hours, and dedication to be able to prepare the way Victory did. The windstorm caused extensive damage across the state of Kansas, including multiple fires that were devastating in parts of Western Kansas. It is not luck that kept Victory’s territory almost completely “fire-free” on December 15, 2021. It was preparation.
Since 2012 Victory has worked to completely automate our system, initial work began in the metering department in 2009. The network we have developed has made it possible to be fully automated and convert manual processes to electronic ones. We now have the ability to control almost all devices from our office. A process that took approximately an hour to complete would not have even been possible 10 years ago with the lack of visibility the storm brought. The board of trustees has played an essential part in this preparation, providing us the ability to purchase the equipment and software needed to make complete system automation a reality.
On December 15, prior to 9 am the decision was made to put our system into one-shot or non-reclose. Under normal operations any time there is a fault on a line it will try to clear the fault multiple times, which can cause lines to spark. Extreme fire hazards were a major concern. Victory did not want our lines sparking and potentially igniting fires that could spread rapidly in a windstorm like we witnessed on December 15th. By utilizing Victory’s system technology, we knew that outages would occur much quicker and were guaranteed. However, temporary outages heavily outweighed the risk of wildfires. Victory experienced approximately 10,000 outages during the peak of the storm but was able to restore power to virtually the entire system by 3 a.m. the same day. With only one small grass fire reported, the plan operated exactly how we wanted it to.
Knowledge is priceless--our Engineering and Operation team’s house a wealth of industry knowledge that allowed this process to go much further than simply changing the system to one-shot. Knowing which areas could handle this type of adjustment and those that could not, is a prime example of how Victory leverages in-house expertise to benefit our members every day.
As the automation of Victory’s infrastructure system reaches completion, the benefits are shining brightly. The capabilities we now have, the man-hours we are saving, miles of driving reduced from one substation to the next, and the outage time frames drastically being reduced, are prime examples of how our members are benefiting not only from a reliability standpoint but also from a financial perspective. Anytime we can reduce costs through automation, our members win. We have transitioned from a period of waiting for our members to tell us the lights are off to already having crews on the way when those calls come in. Rest assured we’re not finished looking out for your best interests as we continually search for the most efficient way to keep the lights on and the cost of power low.