WILLIAMS, Ariz. — With the increase in precipitation this winter, city officials have been able to take their focus off the ongoing Williams water situation and begin the process of upgrading the city’s aging electric system.
According to Williams City Manager Skylor Miller, with the help of the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), steps are being taken to convert the old 4 kV system to the newer 12 kV system throughout the city.
“We have a somewhat antiquated system,” Miller said.
The city purchases power from APS which, along with city electrical contractor K.R. Saline, has advised the city to upgrade their system.
According to Miller, APS wants to upgrade the Williams current 4 kV system to the industry 12 kV standard which can carry more power because of a greater capacity. He said new 12 kV transformers are already in place at the Williams substation and the newer Kaibab substation.
He said the city has found with new development on Cataract Road and Garland Prairie Road, the capacity of the city’s older transformers are getting close to their maximum limit. He said it would be expensive to upgrade the lines so the city is shifting some of the load to new 12 kV lines the city already has in place.
“Each 4 kV line can only have so much on it,” he said.
Miller said each line has an actual load capacity and a design load capacity. He said the design load is the conservative figure that anticipates actual potential from every service.
“In reality you’re never going to hit that because every service is not making their load potential,” he said. “That would be every light on in the building with the heater and air conditioner running at the same time. You aren’t going to do it, but we want to make sure you have the capacity for it if you do.”
Miller said the development near Seventh Street brought the design load to its maximum potential on the feeder line in that area so the city is working to redistribute some of the users from that line to other lines while they do conversions.
“The city had already begun assessing where the needs were to do these improvements,” Miller said. “But we were seeing with the new hotels and brewery that we were quickly reaching our capacity on that line.”
Miller said by piecemealing the 4 kV lines to the 12 kV lines and redistributing loads, the city is steadily working toward a complete upgrade of the electrical system.
“It’s a misconception to call them Band-aids, because each one we do is the final fix,” he said. “We’re doing it in small sections at a time.”
Miller said the city requested a study by APS for a long-term distribution plan. He said APS has broken up the conversions into small projects.
“You look at cost and labor and it goes up over time, so the faster we can do this the better,” he said. “But still you have to do manageable pieces.”
Miller said the money for the project is coming from varied sources. He said some is coming from the general fund and some from revenue from the electrical service itself. Miller said the Garland Prairie project is a three year no interest loan from APS.
“We’re pretty good at managing cash flow and utilizing the funds we have to make these go through,” Miller said. “We couldn’t wait on these conversions.”
Miller said the city passed a line extension policy in the fall of 2015 that requires new development to pay for lines if their business requires extra capacity, however, many of the new businesses on Cataract Road were grandfathered in before the new policy was implemented.
Miller said residents and businesses won’t notice a difference with the new lines, but the upgrades will allow future development to occur without affecting current users.
He said the city has two conversions going on right now. The first is taking users off the Williams 12 line and putting them on the Kaibab. The second conversion will be shifting the wastewater treatment plant, Grand Canyon Railway maintenance shop and other users near Ellen Way off a feeder line and redistributing them to another.
“So the end goal is to get everybody, every service in the city up to 12 kV,” he said. “Our physical limitation is not only funding but also getting a line from the 12 kV substation to these areas to supply them with the new standard.”
Miller said city employees have known for a while that infrastructure upgrades were imminent.
“The city goes through cycles trying to manage improvements and maintenance of its infrastructure,” he said. “For the last several years the hot bed issue has been water so there have been funds diverted to bolster that. Now its electrics turn.”