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By Leah Wilson

In 2018, the Electric Power Training Center initiated an upgrade to its Miniature Power System. Prior to this, upgrades had not been performed in more than a decade and, with an increase in students during that time, this was overdue. In July 2020, the upgrades were finally completed, bringing the EPTC more in line with the current transmission landscape.

The EPTC conducts training courses specific to the Bulk Electric System, covering power generation, transmission and interconnected system operations. The upgrades had been a long time coming.

Electrical Engineer Joseph Liberatore described the project as, “The removal of older technology to showcase variants of WAPA’s Digital Control System standard. An automation controller has been added to further expose students to modern substation configurations.”

The outdated equipment that was replaced is currently being phased out by WAPA. The new system can also be configured to assess cybersecurity issues.​

Planning ahead

Upgrades of this magnitude required extensive planning.

“The project replaced old Wonderware controls driving Modicon equipment to operate a 230-kilovolt three-breaker ring,” Liberatore explained. “Duplex panels were replaced with simplex panels employing a DCS design, utilizing Schweitzer protective relays in configurations that reflect WAPA’s current standard and possible future designs.”

The planning started with project support and initial design discussions, followed by funding confirmation.

Design came next, which was critical to laying out the MPS’s new Wolf Creek simulated switchyard. The final phases included delivery of parts, installation and commissioning, all of which were planned around the MPS’s use by students, minimizing impact to instructional classes.

Many employees were involved in the development of the EPTC’s MPS upgrade.

Liberatore led the installation and commissioning, with collaboration from many others. Electrical Engineer David Fox designed the project. Electrical Engineer Josh Moyers was responsible for protection settings. Electrical Engineer Knut Aakhus facilitated switchboard procurement.

Making progress

The upgrades were made successfully, but – mainly as a result of the pandemic – the project faced its obstacles.

Delays in panel delivery occurred during the 2019 holiday season. This was coupled with construction limitations due to class instruction and the shift to maximum telework in early 2020.

“Small, custom retrofit projects, like Wolf Creek, tend to present unique challenges in terms of scoping, scheduling and getting the best value from manufacturing contractors,” said Aakhus. “This is because there are a lot of little uncertainties and all the usual boilerplate solutions don’t apply. But with good cooperation and communication between procurement, design, contractors and EPTC stakeholders, those challenges were surmountable.”  

“The biggest hardship was integrating this new panel and the associated relays with the existing system,” remembered Meter and Relay Craftsman Apprentice Joseph Maher. Maher and Electronic Integrated Systems Mechanic Apprentice Mitchell Trounce worked hard on the project during the early stages of COVID-19, taking care to apply all necessary safety protocols while doing so.

The complexity of the project and the obstacles encountered meant that the Wolf Creek upgrades were not completed until summer of 2020.

“I’m relieved to have it done and excited to roll out additional learning opportunities for our primary audiences: the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers and WAPA,” said Liberatore. “I want to offer a huge thanks to all WAPA employees and contractors who had a hand in this project, and to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for contributing funds as part of a cybersecurity initiative.”

The funds from PNNL were awarded to WAPA after a team from the laboratory used the MPS to collect cybersecurity data, with the intention of enhancing the facility to further the research. The EPTC received around $80,000 to purchase Schweitzer relays and communication equipment.

“It’s great to look back at this project now that it’s completed and to think about the training that will take place at the EPTC using this upgraded Wolf Creek System,” added Maher. “I’m always happy to provide help to the EPTC, as they do a great job of educating our industry’s workforce.”

“I’m relieved that we were able to come to a completion on the project during the pandemic,” said Trounce. “I enjoyed working with Joe Liberatore on this project, as he was very helpful and great company. And I look forward to helping the EPTC folks in the future if it calls for it.”

Since the project’s completion, EPTC instructors and staff have been learning the new upgrades and additional features, between teaching virtual instructor-led trainings and as office visits permit during the pandemic. Instructors have already started to work it into the classroom curriculum.

Seeing the benefits

The completed project adds instructional value to students and provides a degree of flexibility to future research initiatives.

The Wolf Creek upgrades showcase variations of WAPA’s DCS standard, allowing for realistic evaluation in a simulated environment.

The upgrades cost around $450,000, and exposing students to modern substation equipment provides immeasurable benefits to students and the EPTC.

This project will assist in future learning opportunities that continue to improve WAPA’s premiere training facility. 

Note: Huff is an administrative analyst who works under the Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs contract.

Meter and Relay Craftsman Apprentice Joseph Maher

Meter and Relay Craftsman Apprentice Joseph Maher assists in the upgrades to the Electric Power Training Center Miniature Power System.

Electrical Engineer Joseph Liberatore

Electrical Engineer Joseph Liberatore led the installation of the upgrades and was one of many employees involved with the project.

EPTC wall with equipment

Upgrades were initiated in 2018 with the intention of providing enhanced training that would more effectively prepare industry professionals for what they would find in the field

Last modified on March 5th, 2024