Transformer removal ends decade-long utility upgrade project

Western Today staff

A little known but vital piece of Western Washington University's history was removed from campus this past week.

The antiquated 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nearly 40,000 pounds, contained 1,700 gallons of oil and produced 7,500,000 volt/amps.

Under the North Campus Utility Upgrades project, the existing, more-efficient 12,470-volt system was extended to feed the north end of campus. The effort to replace the old campus distribution system with the new one has taken more than a decade to complete. The removal of the old transformer finishes up the Electrical Utility Campus Master Plan. With the old system, a single failure would disconnect power from the entire north end. The new looped feed configuration allows Western to isolate single buildings to minimize total impact in the event of failure. The last of the buildings on campus to be operating on the 4,160-volt system (Old Main, Edens Hall, Edens North, Higginson, Nash Hall and Mathes Hall) are now hooked up to the new system.

Before disconnecting the transformer from the power feed, Facilities Development and Capital Budget took a measurement of the current draw the transformer used without any load (no buildings or anything connected to it). What they discovered was that the energy required simply to keep the old transformer running was equal to the annual average amount of power required to operate Higginson and Edens North combined. The old transformer truly was an energy draining beast.

The project created rolling power outages, temporary generator feeds and building noise. Thanks to all of the occupants of the north campus who were inconvenienced as the utility upgrade progressed. Your patience and cooperation contributed to the success of this project and is greatly appreciated.

For more information or to leave comments on the project, contact university project manager Josh Kavulla at 360-650-3260 or josh.kavula@wwu.edu.

Monday, November 17, 2014 - 9:31am
The 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of this past week. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nea

The 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of this past week. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nea

The 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of this past week. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nea

The 4,160-volt transformer at the Steam Plant, once the single power feed from Puget Sound Energy for the entire campus, was lifted by crane and transported to Oregon to be safely disposed of this past week. The beast was manufactured in 1975, weighed nea