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Crews install a transformer on the southeast side of Wadena last month. The $1.2 million project is the latest upgrade to the city's electrical grid.

City continues electrical upgrades with SE transformer project

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Wadena is spending about $1.2 million for upgrades to the southeast electrical substation, the latest project in a decades-long effort to revamp the city's electrical grid.

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The transition from 2,400 volts to a 7,200 volts distribution capacity started in the 1970s.

"We have projects every year that improve our system and make it more reliable," said David Evans, electric and water superintendent. "It's been kind of a slow process, but we're getting all of our money's worth out of our old system that way."

About 15 percent of the old 2,400 volt system remains, he said, and it should be completely phased out within three years.

"We're building the system to last 50 years," Evans said.

In February, crews installed a second transformer at the southeast substation, which doubled capacity. The city's other substation is near the armory on the northwest side of town.

The 7,200 volt system can carry three times the load on the same size wires. The transition has cost upwards of $5 million, Evans said. Funded through utility bills, the city hasn't borrowed any money for the switch.

The southeast substation transformers are slated to be energized by mid-May and should be completely wrapped up by late June.

Wadena doesn't produce any power locally. The regional federal hydroelectric provider, Western Area Power Administration, provides about 60 percent of the city's electricity, while Missouri River Energy Services produces the rest.

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