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Growth in southwest Springfield causes City Utilities to invest in $14.8 million of power grid additions

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 6:43 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - City Utilities has a lot going on these days, and their 2022 budget includes $96 million worth of capital improvements, with almost 30 percent of that going towards electric utility infrastructure.

CU will spend around $14.8 million in one of the fastest-growing parts of its service area in southwest Springfield.

That part of Springfield abuts the city of Republic. And although CU doesn’t serve Republic, it does serve the industrial park there, including the new 1.3 million-square-foot Amazon Distribution Center and Convoy of Hope’s new world headquarters.

The industrial park requires a lot of power, and with the area around it expected to grow as well, CU is trying to make sure it can meet the future needs of that corridor by adding three projects.

The first is CU’s first new substation in 10 years at the cost of $5 million, located near Amazon.

“When the new substation comes online in June, that’ll be a little more peace of mind with the amount of energy Amazon demands,” said Joel Alexander, CU’s Manager of Media and Energy Services. “But it’s not just for them. It’s going to be close to Convoy of Hope and other large industrial spots out there. You’re also going to see a lot of other growth going on out there, so we wanted to make sure we were positioned for the future.”

CU completed the second project. It connected the new substation to the John Twitty Energy Center with 4.7 miles of new transmission lines with steel rather than wood poles.

“The biggest problem we have in areas like that are, believe it or not, woodpeckers,” Alexander said.

That $4.3 million project started over ten years ago because CU had to acquire property rights along the path of the new poles. CU decided to go overhead rather than underground.

“When you look at the amount of electric current that’s going on out there and the heat that produces, it is very costly to put something like that underground,” Alexander explained. “So overhead is still the best way to do transmission lines, and it’s easier to maintain and access those in the event that something goes wrong. It’s also more economical to the customers in the long run.”

The third project is an overhaul of generator unit no. 2 at the John Twitty Energy Center at $5.5 million. Unit 2 is the larger of the two coal-fired generation units at the plant that went online in 2011.

“It’s the first major overhaul that we’ve actually done to it, and it’s kind of like a car,” Alexander pointed out. “You reach the point where there’s some work you have to do to make sure things are still working properly. There are several thousand hours of manpower going in to work on that. It started in March and will probably go into the first part of May depending on what they find or difficulty getting parts like everybody else is dealing with right now.”

While new subdivisions and commercial developments are going all over southwest Springfield, the Republic Industrial Park is also expected to grow, with restaurants, convenience stores, and shopping areas being built to serve the workers and visitors.

“We knew it was going to happen, but it probably got here just a little quicker than we thought it would,” Alexander said. “But we’re in good shape now.”

Will City Utilities pass the $14.8 million in improvements to customers?

“The funding is already in place from the last increases,” Alexander answered. “That’s what those are in place for, to get the funding to care for what’s needed and what we see in the future.”

Alexander did point out, though, that with the prices of everything going up these days (natural gas prices have gone up 113 percent since last year at their highest levels since 2008), there’s always a chance that rates may have to go up at some point. CU will begin planning on its 2023 budget in July.

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