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Snake In A Substation

About one o�clock on a Wednesday morning in late May a snake slithered inside an electric substation near Berea. You�ve seen substations�they�re those large fenced-in cages full of electrical equipment that controls the flow of electricity through the power system.

On this morning the snake�s travels shorted out the substation�s metering equipment and ruptured the voltage regulator. A fire broke out, shutting down power to 4,000 members of Blue Grass Energy Co-op.

Co-op and fire crews arrived by 1:30. By 6 a.m. power had been restored to some of the members. It would take until the afternoon for everyone�s electricity to be back on. Classes at nearby Silver Creek Elementary School were moved to Madison Southern High School for the day. The snake did not survive.

An obvious but important lesson is that electricity is incredibly dangerous. When it comes to substations, power lines, and other high-voltage equipment, most of us don�t know much more than that snake. Stay away.

Another is that all kinds of unpredictable variables can affect our incredibly complex electric generation, transmission, and distribution system.

Expensive federal rules
And we should let cases like this remind us of the crews that safely and effectively keep our society safe and running�extinguishing fires, restoring power, watching out for our schoolchildren�24 hours a day. For another example of that check out the Energy 101 column, �Up all night,� about the people who staff power plants so that the lights will come on when you head to the kitchen for your midnight snack.

This odd and sensational affair gives me a chance to mention another snake in the system that I�ve written about several times in these past few columns�a set of Environmental Protection Agency rules that will likely make your electricity costs much higher.

You can read “Co-op advocates in Washington,” about Kentucky electric co-op leaders working with our national elected officials to keep your electricity reliable and affordable.

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