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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

MSU partners with Consumers Energy on upgraded substation


August 1, 2016

Consumers Energy is in the process of building an upgraded electric substation on Michigan State University’s campus. The Spartan Substation will replace the existing, smaller substation near the T.B. Simon Power Plant. MSU has been working closely with Consumers Energy to ensure a smooth construction process.

“Consumers Energy partnered with MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities to minimize the impact to faculty, staff, existing underground utilities and the public,” said Tom Madden, Consumers Energy project manager.

Construction of the substation began in January, and will be completed in May.

Why does MSU need an upgraded substation?

The existing substation has a capacity of 21 megawatts. This meets the current power and steam need for MSU’s campus. However, the university is actively expanding its research capacity, which will require additional electric power and heat.

Starting in 2019, additional electrical power will be necessary to operate the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). The upgraded Spartan Substation will have a capacity of more than 100 megawatts, which will not only provide power for FRIB research, but also backup power to the T.B. Simon Power Plant.

“A combination of those two is what caused us to do this. It meets the power needs of FRIB and the needs of our future campus growth,” said Chris Barnes, IPF project manager.

How does an electric substation work?

An electric substation offers a variety of uses. According to Consumers Energy, it can be a common connection point for multiple paths in the electric grid, a point where disconnecting devices are located to de-energize portions of the grid or a point at which the system voltage can be changed from one level to another.

“Substations can perform one or more of these functions. This project will provide a new, dedicated electric supply to the MSU campus,” Madden said.

Two miles of underground duct bank is being installed through a portion of campus. The underground duct bank includes nine six-inch conduits encased in concrete, placed six feet below the ground.

“The project involves installing a new high voltage underground line to the substation. The substation is fed from a location approximately two miles south, where it will interconnect with the high voltage electric grid,” Madden said.

The transformer

The first of two, 100-ton transformers was delivered to campus via railway and hoisted by crane into place at the Spartan Substation. The second transformer is scheduled to arrive in September.

A large white-grey metal transformer sitting on a red rail car
The 100-ton transformer delivered via railway.

A crane preparing to off load the transformer from the rail car
Crane preparation before moving the transformer.

The transformer hanging above the destination where it will be placed. Construction workers guide it into place
The transformer hoisted before being moved to the substation.

The transformer in it's new home at the substation
The transformer installed into its place in the substation.

The transformer’s purpose is to reduce the high voltage level of electricity that is transmitted into the substation.

“The substation transforms that power. That transformer changes it so we can use it,” Barnes said.

The reduction of the high voltage level allows MSU to use the power as back-up capacity for campus facilities.

For more information regarding the Spartan Substation, visit the upgrade utility substation project page.