As a generation and transmission provider, Power South Energy Cooperative supplies wholesale power to 16 distribution electric cooperatives and four municipal electric systems throughout Alabama and northwest Florida.
When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with destructive force as a Category 4 storm on Oct. 10, power was lost to the western half of the region and beyond.
As the most densely populated area of the western panhandle, Panama City and its surrounding environs were particularly hard hit. Altogether, Florida tallied more than 275,000 power outages, with some areas off the grid for weeks until transmission lines could be restrung and reconnected.
At the East Callaway substation 12 miles northeast of Panama City, a Cat® XQ2000 generator set was connected by technicians from Thompson Power Systems in the days following the storm.
“One day we found out what Thompson Power Systems could supply us with, and the next day they were getting it on the way. It was very quick,” said Lanie Sells, a substation operations and maintenance engineer.
“The Thompson technicians helped us connect it,” Sells said. There’s a lot of leads—eight per phase on the low side of the step-up transformer—and they directed the whole show. We were pretty much there as help for them. They really put it together and made it work.
Power South bypassed its transmission system at the substation by adding the generator to the end of the distribution bus. The generator ran four days straight, and continued to operate in a support role as transmission was gradually restored.
“For the period of time that we used it, the Cat genset was the sole power for the community,” Sells said. ‘It ran 24/7 and was very dependable.”
A Thompson technician remained on site at all times while the generator was in service.
“They made sure there were no mechanical problems, and if it tripped off due to some downed line issues, they handled getting it back up,” Sells said.
As part of the turnkey service it provided, the Alabama-based Cat dealer also coordinated refueling.
“If it wasn’t for the Cat generators, we wouldn’t have been able to supply power to the people as soon as we did from these substations,” Sells said. “I think installing them and restoring power—even just seeing some street lights come back on—gave a little bit of hope when there was just complete devastation in a lot of places.”