Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 20, 2013

Utility undecided on two sites for substation

By Brian McGillivary

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Board members want Traverse City Light & Power to be a good neighbor when picking a location for a new electrical substation, but can’t decide which neighbors to please.

The city-owned utility has two possible sites, both on LaFranier Road in Garfield Township. The township and Cherryland Electric Cooperative prefer the smaller, 1.3 acre site near South Airport road next to an existing substation. But board members and officials expressed concern about people living in the adjoining residential neighborhoods.

“It’s going to be a significant change from what’s there now,” said Tim Arends, interim executive director for TCL&P. “I’ve driven by there for years and years and not realized there was a substation there.”

The second option involves 30 acres farther south near Hammond Road. That would allow the utility to separate and easily screen the substation from residential areas, said John Snodgrass, a utility board member.

The larger site, at a cost of about $1.45 million to develop, likely will be cheaper by $100,000 to $200,000 because TCL&P won’t have to bury as much power line leaving the facility. It would also give the utility a place to construct a power generating facility if the board chose to go that direction in the future, Arends said.

Some of the 30 acres is wetland, but the rest is considered prime land for commercial development and job creation.

Chuck Korn, Garfield Township supervisor, said the township would prefer the city build next to the current substation owned by Wolverine Power Cooperative “primarily because you are removing a lot of property from the tax rolls.”

The larger site would also require zoning approval from the township.

The new substation will significantly improve TCL&P’s ability to isolate a disruption to customers if there is a break among the major electrical transmission line that feeds that area. The substation would have a similar impact on Cherryland if TCL&P built next to and tied into the Wolverine substation.

Frank Siepker, engineer and operations manager for Cherryland, said picking the 30 acre site would have a “fairly significant” impact on Cherryland’s reliability. It would also increase the risk for TCL&P, but Siepker said he wouldn’t qualify the city’s increased risk as significant.

The TCL&P board will revisit the question when it meets on Feb. 26.