UniSource Prepares for Summer with Investments in Energy Grid

Published by The Bee News

June 28, 2023

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Tucson, Ariz. – With the arrival of higher temperatures and powerful thunderstorms, UniSource Energy Services stands ready for the challenges of summer with recent improvements to our local energy grid.

UniSource performs year-round system upgrades to prepare for summer when equipment is placed under greater stress by hotter weather and increasing peak energy usage. In 2022 alone, UniSource made more than $40 million in improvements to power lines, poles, transformers and other transmission and distribution facilities used to deliver service to customers every day. 

Many of those projects included building or upgrading substations, which play a crucial role in powering homes and businesses by changing voltage to safe and appropriate levels.

“Summertime is when customers rely on our service the most, so we work hard year-round on system upgrades,” said Roberto Guevara, UniSource Director of Gas, Electric and Operational Excellence. “Improvements at our substations can provide more capacity to serve customers and give us more flexibility to get the lights back on in the event of an outage.”

It can take a few years to design, permit and build a new substation. UniSource crews completed some projects in time for summer, while work continues on others. 

In Kingman, UniSource completed construction of the new $7 million Walnut Creek Substation, located south of town near Interstate 40 and Shinarump Road. The substation will provide additional capacity to improve reliability and support an existing substation located about 11 miles to the southwest. The new substation is designed to help satisfy the growing energy needs of residential, commercial and industrial customers in the area.

Work also continues on power line upgrades that will interconnect with the planned Meadview Substation. This year alone, UniSource will spend about $2 million on power line upgrades and about $4 million on the new substation. Substation construction is underway and is expected to be complete by the end of this year. Crews are working to bring related distribution system upgrades into service before the end of summer.

In Lake Havasu City, work crews are expanding the capacity of UniSource’s Mulberry Substation, located near State Route 95 and Mulberry Avenue. The improvements will allow UniSource to install a new circuit that will provide greater flexibility to system operators while accommodating a new housing development in the area. The $1.6 million upgrade for the substation and related improvements are scheduled to be completed in 2024. Crews also completed installation of new communications equipment that will improve our system operators’ ability to monitor our local energy grid and promptly respond to outages.

In early 2022, UniSource acquired land in Rio Rico near the Interstate 19 frontage road that could become the site of a new, permanent substation designed to support growing customer energy needs. Peak energy use in the area increased 13 percent in 2021, driving systemwide usage to a new all-time high. Last year, UniSource installed a mobile substation next to our Sonoita Substation, providing a temporary expansion of system capacity and support for reliable summertime service. 

Our communities’ growing energy needs contributed to a 16-percent increase in UniSource’s peak demand between 2015 and 2021. These needs are expected to escalate in the near future, with forecasts predicting an increase in peak energy usage by 1 percent annually over the next few years.

UniSource provides electric service to more than 101,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz counties. It also provides natural gas service to more than 167,000 customers in northern and southern Arizona. For more information about UniSource, visit uesaz.com. UniSource and its parent company, UNS Energy, are subsidiaries of Fortis, Inc. (TSX/NYSE: FTS), which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the United States and the Caribbean. To learn more, visit fortisinc.com.

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