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Gering’s demand for power growing
February 26, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering’s effort to upgrade its electrical system to provide better service at lower cost faces one chief obstacle - upfront costs.

Ron Doggett, Gering’s Electric Utilities Superintendent, said the city’s current electrical grid is 4,000 volts, which is how much power is pushed out to the customers, called 4KV. Gering is one of the few cities in the state that are still using that system, which dates back to the mid-1960s.

The city would eventually like to upgrade the system to 12,000 volts or 12KV, power available to customers.

Doggett said that some substations are now maxed out with what they deliver, such as the substation on 21st Street near the Gering sled slope. That resulted in some problems with low voltage in the past.

“With an upgraded 12KV system, we could probably operate with three substations,” he said. “I think four would still be better because they won’t carry such a large electrical load. If one of the substations went offline, we could still operate until repairs could be done.”

He added the aging substations could handle Gering’s electrical load in the past. However, the demand for electricity has grown with new home construction, especially west of Five Rocks Road and south of M Street.

“With 12KV we could reduce our number of substations from seven to a maximum of four,” Doggett said. “Because we have a lower voltage 4KV system, it required more substations wiring than 12KV. There’s more of a voltage drop-off.”

“A 12KV system would save us lots because (there would be) fewer substations, less maintenance, line loss and better delivery,” Doggett said. “The big issue is the cost of upgrading the system. Once that cost is paid back, everyone (will) benefit from a better system.”

Doggett said he’s been pushing for the upgrade since he took over as superintendent 11 years ago. The council supports the project, but the rub is fitting it into an already tight budget.

The electrical industry has been advancing rapidly, he added. With computerization, old systems have become antiquated.

The topic of an electrical grid update came up recently as the Western Nebraska Economic Development group started discussing the possibility of forming an electrical cooperative. The cooperative would allow smaller member communities to purchase electricity and make needed upgrades to their electrical systems in a cost effective manner.

Gering City Council Larry Gibbs, who is the vice chair of the economic group, said a cooperative might help Gering in covering the costs of upgrading the city’s electrical system. However, a cooperative is still in the idea stage.
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