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Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


New substation will support the growing Bennington area

December 6, 2022 | Jason Kuiper | public power, T&D
Grading work is taking place at the site of what will be the new Bennington substation. Photo by Jason Kuiper

To best serve its customer-owners, OPPD  is always looking ahead and working to anticipate and provide for the community’s future needs.

One case illustrating that is now visible as grading work begins at the construction site of the of a new substation near Bennington Road and North 144th Plaza. The substation will serve the Bennington area, one of the fastest-growing parts of the Omaha metro.

OPPD purchased the land that will be home to the substation about seven years ago.

“This is a good example of stretching the system as far as we can before putting in the money to build a new substation,” said Greg Garst, an engineer in OPPD’s Transmission & Distribution Planning department. “Substations are expensive, and we always want to be good stewards of our customer’s money.”

Substations can cost up to $5 million each and take up to 18 months to build. They typically last more than 40 years.

What does a substation do?

Substations help route electricity and transform it into usable voltages. Substations come in various shapes and sizes and have multiple functions, including stepping up voltage and allowing energy to travel long distances through OPPD’s transmission system.

The new Bennington substation will step down voltage, making electricity usable by OPPD’s customers. Workers are grading the property – which was once sloping farmland – to prepare for construction.

Why now?

Before building a new substation, OPPD looks at reconfiguring or even adding circuits to an area. Substations feed circuits, which are like the interstate system, but for electricity.

Circuits can feed as many as 1,500 to 2,000 customers each. They also help provide redundancy by allowing OPPD’s system operators the ability to reroute power from various circuits to keep the electricity flowing to different areas.

When a storm or some other incident causes a circuit lockout, it is sometimes possible to isolate an area of the circuit that has been damaged while still keeping power flowing to other areas served by that circuit by feeding power from a neighboring circuit.

In the coming years, circuits that feed the Bennington area will close in on the maximum number of customers a circuit can hold. Carol Waszak, OPPD project manager for the Bennington substation, said that shifting load around to various circuits helped buy the utility some extra time before the beginning the fairly significant capital investment, but the plan has always been to build a new substation.

Supporting customers, growth

Waszak said the work involves employees from many areas of the utility, including system operations, substation, system protection, distribution planning, engineering and working crews.

That amounts to numerous people and areas in OPPD working to support new growth in the area and support new customers.

The  substation is expected to begin operating in mid-2024.

“This new substation addresses the growth in that area and increases reliability and redundancy for everyone in that area,” Waszak said

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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