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Dec 6, 2023

Understanding the Role and Importance of Substations in Energy Distribution

In tonight’s episode of Bringing Energy to Life, we look at the role and importance of substations and how these facilities are integral breaking down the electricity that is distributed to homes, schools and businesses across the country.  Here’s News Five’s Isani Cayetano with that story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A scheduled power interruption for a few hours on Sunday was the only window of opportunity for this team of engineers to replace a transformer at the substation in San Pedro.  Admittedly, it was an inconvenience for many on Ambergris Caye; however, it became necessary for Belize Electricity Ltd. to substitute the existing piece of equipment with one that can handle a bigger load.  As a lead hand, Sergio Ake oversees a team assigned to him.  His role is important because he acts as an intermediary between the employees and their supervisors.


Sergio Ake

Sergio Ake, Electrical Tech Lead Hand

“Today’s job was to relocate a transformer and at the same time we took advantage to do maintenance, preventative maintenance.  And that’s what we did with the next transformer, because we have two transformers.  And the next one, basically we just tested arresters should in case we have, if they read bad, you have a bad reading then we take advantage of the situation and just replace them because those are very critical.  If they fail then the transformer fails and then you have an outage and, you know, every time you have an outage then the customer suffers.”


[What is a Substation?]


Leroy Woodye is in charge of substation and system reliability for the utility company.  A substation is a high-voltage electric system facility that is used to switch generators, equipment, and circuits or lines in and out of a system.  A substation is also used to change AC voltages from one level to another, or change alternating current to direct current and vice versa.


Leroy Woodye

Leroy Woodye, Supt., Substation & System Reliability

“Without the substation, the transmission line or the distribution line is of no use.  The system is set up whereby the transmission line brings in high voltage to the substation and then the substation then breaks it down to a lower voltage so that it can then go out, not necessarily directly to the customers’ home but to the distribution line where it is further broken down using a smaller transformer.”


Changing out the old transformer and replacing it with another was one of two assignments the team was tasked with.


Leroy Woodye

“The first task was to relocate the existing transformer for Feeder 3, and the second task was to perform minor maintenance on the second transformer that exists for the island.  So, the team was kind of split, however, we found ourselves with the need to kind of pull everybody together for the main transformer relocation because it was a bit tedious and, you know, the technicality of the job is quite delicate, so we had to, kind of divert resources from one work to the other so that we can get this job done.”


Both crews worked in concert, doing their best to complete both assignments within four hours.


Colin Ysaguirre

Colin Ysaguirre, Electrical Technician II

“Basically, it was very hectic.  It was a very short window space that we had, so we had to do the best that we could have.  We ran into a few hiccups along the way which kind of delayed the process a bit, but regardless of everything, we got the job done within the timeframe, I should say.  I guess we did pretty good today.”


That’s half the time that is ordinarily required for this kind of tiresome job.


Leroy Woodye

“The outage was a very tight outage for us because normally when we do a maintenance it’s an eight-hour outage, but for this job that we did today, it was only a four hour outage, so it was really, really tight or us.”


[The Need for Modernizing Substations]


With an increase in customer interest in acquiring energy comes a need for BEL to modernize its substations to meet that demand reliably.  The substation in Chan Chen is a state-of-the-art facility that allows the company to do repairs and maintenance without disrupting the power supply.


Leroy Woodye

“For the most part, the older substations are basically just the line coming in from transmission and the distribution lines going out.  The upgrade that we’re doing, and this is something that we have planned in the future, to try and do most or all of the substations, is to have redundancy.  What happens in Chan Chen is that Chan Chen has two transmission lines coming in to it.  One coming from Xul Ha and one coming from our grid, Belize City side.  So it gives you that reliability that you can actually open a circuit breaker, work on it, whatever, without giving the customers outage.  So the modernization is to allow reliability.”


A substation is comprised of several electrical parts, as explained by Superintendent Woodye.


Leroy Woodye

“The substation actually has the hardware components which is circuit breakers, circuit switchers, reclosers, transformers.  But within that, we do have a protection scheme that allows us to, you know, for fault finding and even when a fault occurs on the line certain protection devices would open that you don’t lose the entire system, so the modernization is a part of that protection scheme, as well as the remote control of all the devices within the substation.”


Turning back to the recently completed work on the island.  The team of workmen was able to replace the transformer and return electricity to San Pedro within the four hours that they had to get the job done.  According to Sergio Ake, who has been with BEL for the past thirty years, things can get a bit demanding at times.


Sergio Ake

“It pressures us as workers to try to finish in time and then sometimes you have setbacks.  Today, we had setbacks with the crane and that makes it harder on us, but we managed.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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