Frequent power outages fuel Danville Utilities customer frustration | Govt. and politics

Amy Abbott’s power at her home goes out about every month.

The Mount Hermon-area resident said the frequency of outages had gotten worse over the past year and she had to buy a generator.

“What really bothers me is how often this happens,” Abbott said Tuesday. “It almost never happened in the past, unless there was a big storm or something like that. Now it happens on nice days and nothing can be the cause. due to the weather.

When contacted Tuesday morning by the Danville Register & Bee, Abbott’s current had just returned after 45 minutes away.

“I was at my mailbox and heard a crackle in the line above my head…” she said of the moment her electricity went out. “It was the third time in about a month.”

Abbott’s outage that morning came just three days after another that occurred while American Electric Power was performing maintenance on its system. Danville Utilities stopped receiving electricity from one of its AEP delivery points and several substations went offline for almost 30 minutes.

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“It certainly affected a lot of people,” said Jason Gray, director of Danville Utilities.

The city’s West Fork delivery point project will help prevent situations like the one that happened Dec. 18, Gray said. Danville Utilities’ fourth Appalachian Power delivery point will be built in Brosville and is expected to be completed in 2023.

“That delivery point has been in concept design,” Gray said. “We are considering buying a property for this. If we had this project running, we would have had another delivery point that would have prevented what happened [Dec. 18].”

Danville City Council voted in July to buy 42.85 acres next to the West Fork electrical substation for $180,000 to expand the substation’s footprint in Brosville and add a fourth Appalachian Power delivery point.

The purchase would install a new Appalachian Power transmission line and substation on the property.

West Fork Substation sits on approximately five acres on Long Circle off US 58.

Danville Utilities’ existing delivery points for Appalachian Power are off Kentuck Road at Riverside Drive and Arnett Boulevard, and at the Danville Utilities location at Monument Street.

Danville Utilities distributes electricity to approximately 42,000 customers in a 500 square mile service territory covering Danville, the southern third of Pittsylvania County and small portions of Henry and Halifax counties. It also provides natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications services to Danville.

Appalachian Power’s transmission line would be a 138 kilovolt line and the substation would include a control building, several circuit breakers and metering equipment.

Danville Utilities operates 17 substations.

The recent delivery point issue occurred at the Riverside Substation at Riverside Drive and Arnett Boulevard.

The Riverside Substation is a vital part of Danville Utilities serving about a quarter of the city’s customers.

One of three current delivery points in the city’s system, it supplies electricity to nearly 10,000 customers on both sides of the Dan River.

The Riverside substation supplies electricity to customers in areas bounded by Guilford Street to the north, the Old West End to the south, Piney Forest Road to the west and the King Memorial Bridge to the east.

It also supplies substations in the county, including those at Brosville, Whitmell and Mount Hermon.

The substation was upgraded in the summer of 2020. The project cost around $6 million and involved replacing the substation’s three aging transformers, switches, circuit breakers, and other equipment. Prior to the upgrades, much of the equipment dated back to the construction of the substation in the 1960s.

Work at the Kentuck Substation across from Dan River High School on Kentuck Church Road was recently completed.

File photo


As for the power outages, Westover Drive area resident Cindi Fisher recently suffered five power outages at her Fox Hollow home.

“The power outages seem to have increased over the time I’ve lived in this part of town,” Fisher said, adding that she’s been a Fox Hollow resident for more than 10 years.

Some of her neighbors bought backup generators, she said.

In addition to the power loss that occurred on Dec. 18, three short outages occurred at Fisher’s home on the morning of Dec. 12, she said.

“All in all, it didn’t last that long, but it caused a power surge in my house that killed my modem,” Fisher said.

She called her internet service provider and had her modem replaced at the city’s expense, she said.

Fisher also lost power the first week of this month while at work.

“Power outages are nothing new in the Westover area, but there is no weather-related event that caused any of the outages in my home this month,” she said.

Before outages became more common in the Fisher neighborhood, she felt like she and her neighbors were lucky to be spared when most of the Westover area was without power. But that has changed.

“Now I find it more awkward,” she said.

Isolated problems

Gray said the city has seen more isolated outages due to fallen trees or animals such as squirrels or birds coming into contact with power lines.

“Not all outages are caused by us,” Gray said. “They are caused by Mother Nature. We are here to react to this and do what we can to prevent them from moving forward.

The city has done a lot of right-of-way maintenance — like tree trimming — in recent years to reduce incidents, but birds and squirrels can still climb and fly on poles and lines, Gray said.

The car wrecks have also caused outages when poles are hit, including one that occurred Wednesday morning that knocked out power to part of Danville Utilities’ service area, Gray said.

“It seems to be happening a lot more than I realize,” he said. “A lot of customers don’t realize the number of vehicle accidents we have.”


In June 2020, Danville Utilities Manager Jason Gray highlights some of the upgrades done at Riverside Substation.

Sign and bee, file


As for new substations, projects were completed in Kentuck in October and in Whitmell last week, Gray said.

Crews have now moved on to building new substations in Westover near Woodlawn Drive and Southside near Danville Community College, Gray said.

Westover and Southside serve approximately 5,600 and 3,400 customers respectively.

Westover substation serves a large area including Dry Fork, the Berry Hill Road area and parts of Danville.

Southside covers the area from West Main Street and Averett University to Danville, heading south through the Grove Park, Southwyck, Druid Hills and Stratford Place area to the North Carolina line.

Westover substation was built in 1975 and Southside substation was built in 1972.

Those projects should be finished by next summer, Gray said.

Newer equipment and increasing redundancy, with dual transformers in a substation, improve reliability, he said. Dual transformers will be installed at the Westover and Southside substations as part of their projects, allowing the electrical load to be evenly distributed between the transformers and moved from one transformer to another in the event of a problem.