Electro Mechanical logo

101 Goodson Street

Bristol, VA 24201



101 Goodson Street          CONTACT US
Bristol, VA 24201         276.669.4084

The Grid header

JUNE 2020


Russell Leonard, CEO

The last few months have ushered in unprecedented changes to the ways we do business, far more rapidly than we imagined was possible. Throughout our industry, each of us has quickly adapted to what is now a new normal, with some workers telecommuting as part of their daily routines, modifications to manufacturing environments being implemented to protect workers, and shifting of production capabilities in support of the products needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are often asked how the recent nationwide pause has affected our operations. We’re grateful to say that during this time, we’ve experienced steady demand for our products and have shipped equipment to customers throughout the U.S. These efforts are part of our long-standing commitment to helping our partners keep the power on for their own customers. Thanks to the dedication of our co-workers, our plants remain in production mode.

We are also thankful to say that our belief in the value of positive relationships has been proven time and again, especially during this current critical period. Regardless of technological advancements or large-scale business shifts, we will always deliver personal attention to clients, high-quality products, and exemplary customer service — fundamentals that are always in demand.

In this issue of The Grid, you’ll see how we partnered with Kentucky Utilities to build a custom mobile substation that shears costly time off of capital construction projects. We also share how we’ve helped national corporations like 3M adapt their production capabilities to increase delivery of N95 masks.

All of us here at Electro-Mechanical are Working for You. Let us know how we can collaborate with you to further your success.

5 Loads of Federal Pacific Switchgear

Federal Pacific Rolls Out New Mobile Switchgear for Kentucky Utilities Company

Mobile Substation

When Kentucky Utilities Company (KU) needed what they call “portable switchgear” for upcoming capital projects, they began a detailed search to identify and connect with companies capable of providing the right equipment for the job.

Based in Lexington, KU provides electricity to 77 counties throughout the Commonwealth and also serves five Virginia counties under the name Old Dominion Power. Together, KU and its sister utility, Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E), provide more than 1.3 million customers with the safe and reliable energy services they depend on to power their lives.

During the construction phases of substation upgrade projects, utilities must find alternate ways to feed electricity to customers. Sometimes it is possible to shift load from one circuit to another to provide uninterrupted service. In areas with limited infrastructure or capacity, utilities must build temporary substations to manage the load. This process requires extensive engineering design, materials and labor to install the temporary equipment, which is often removed once the project is completed. 

“We had a project coming up where we knew portable switchgear would likely fill the need, since we could still use the existing substation power transformer,” said Martin Prichard, electrical engineer II, Substation Engineering & Design, at LG&E and KU. “We are restricted on where we can use our existing portable substations due to their voltage levels, and they don’t always have the capacity needed to meet demand.”

KU reached out to Federal Pacific for ideas on the best solution for their needs.

Federal Pacific 15kv Mobile Outdoor Utility Substation Secondary C1304 Operation Side

“In addition to their voltage requirements, they were looking for a piece of equipment they could move around and use at various substations during large construction projects,” said Steven Mueller, Northeast sales engineer for Federal Pacific. “It needed to be something that they could simply pull into the lot and plug in, allowing them to update and utilize existing substation equipment.”

The solution that Federal Pacific delivered is a custom-built, mobile outdoor switchgear containing multiple circuit breakers. The mobile switchgear contains a lineup of protective relays as well. 

“The product we provided KU replaces a portion of the stationary equipment at a substation,” said Kent Jones, principal engineer at Electro-Mechanical Corporation. “It sits on wheels and the purpose is simple — you bypass and temporarily disconnect the permanently mounted switchgear equipment, connect the mobile gear to the power transformer, then service the community through the trailer. After making the needed repairs or replacing the permanent equipment, you switch the power over, unhook the trailer and go work on another substation.”

“The mobility of the equipment is key for this application,” Prichard said. “It requires minimal steps to install and reduces the fieldwork necessary to install a comparable setup that isn’t mounted on wheels. Reducing that installation time from three months to two days to get a system in place really speeds up the timeline for a project — very impressive.”

While the product’s purpose sounds relatively straightforward, arriving at the solution was not easy. In response to the utility’s initial inquiry, Federal Pacific first showed KU an existing design: a very large, skid-mounted portable switchgear, which is usually off-loaded and put in place at the site.

“We initially asked Federal Pacific about the possibility of ordering skid-mounted switchgear due to its flexibility,” Prichard said. “We came to realize that we’d have to rent a crane and a trailer each time we moved it from site to site. In addition, similar equipment typically gets shipped in pieces so it can be transported down the road, which then requires a lot of assembly and testing in the field. As we looked at the logistics for transportation, we worked closely with Federal Pacific to see if there was an option to mount it on a trailer instead of skids. There was a lot of back and forth as we fleshed out the details, and sought opportunities for synergies and improvements over what we were previously using.”

Federal Pacific 15kv Mobile Outdoor Utility Substation Secondary C1304 Rear View

“It was a very participative process along the entire journey,” Jones said. “The whole idea is to build the customer what serves them the best.”

The concept of trailer-mounted switchgear would provide KU with all the benefits of skid-mounted switchgear, with the added capability of easily moving it from one substation to another and eliminating transportation costs. A major challenge, however, was designing it so it could be quickly put in place without a lot of assembly.

“We walked through all the different relays, breakers and instrument transformers required for each substation when the switchgear was pulled into a lot so they could immediately work on it without having to be re-trained on additional equipment,” Mueller said. “KU articulated what they needed and we held numerous conference calls to ensure we were giving them the right parts for the job. The initial design was huge, so we ended up shrinking it in half and putting it on the back of a semi-trailer. The end result is a unit that’s only 8’6” wide x 13’6” high. It’s the first one on wheels we’ve designed for a utility.”

“In designing solutions for customers, we make the components as similar as possible to what they have in their permanent stations so their personnel don’t have to be re-trained,” Jones said. “Since utilities have to keep a lot of inventory, we use their equipment and methods as much as possible so employees are already familiar with it.”

Typically, a portable substation replaces exactly what’s in the existing substation and has more parts. The design for the new mobile switchgear, however, omitted the power transformer, which is the heaviest piece, along with high voltage components. This particular mobile switchgear was built precisely to KU’s specifications; the entire assembly is 95kV BIL construction to facilitate use on 5kV to 15kV systems.

“We have two primary distribution operating voltages in the KU territory — 12kV and 4kV,” Prichard said. “We need to be able to connect to both, It can be very tricky to accommodate that need and find equipment that can be configured appropriately. They installed the appropriate equipment to allow us to use this portable gear with either voltage.”

The mobile switchgear is configured with one main breaker, three feeder breakers, protective relaying and an onboard 48VDC battery system. It also consists of a walk-up style lineup of draw-out vacuum circuit breakers and associated controls, the switchgear enclosure (the base of which was bolted and welded to the trailer bed), two portable aluminum platforms (with non-skid steps and rails) to access the trailer bays, several cubicles for the circuit breakers, the control section (housing the relays and electronics), and the battery and power compartment.

“There are two entries where you can step into the protection and control section of the mobile switchgear — and no aisle,” Jones said. “This affords size reduction and the ability to pull it down the road with a regular semi-tractor without having to obtain transportation permits. The platforms and rails make it serviceable on-site. In addition to the main assembly components, it also includes all the typical protection and communication features used by a utility customer. If the power goes out, it keeps working. It has a large battery backup system so protection and communication are never interrupted.”

Electro-Mechanical Corporation has designed and manufactured skid-mounted switchgears for many years, and Federal Pacific has made similar units for utility, heavy industrial, oil and gas, and large-scale construction applications. KU’s mobile switchgear on wheels is a first.

“This product has significantly condensed the footprint and put everything we needed into a small package,” Prichard said. “The beauty of it is we can take it out of any substation relatively easily and redeploy it. Its multi-voltage design allows it to be operated in any substation in our service territory. This equipment is a huge benefit to us, and we should be able to see recurring value as it helps us reduce both the costs and the timeline for our projects. We’re excited to put this into service, and look forward to working with Federal Pacific again should the opportunity arise in the future.”

15kV Mobile Outdoor Utility Substation Secondary C1304

Federal Pacific Implements High-Priority Product Shipment in Response to COVID-19 Equipment Needs

The company’s broad range of pad-mounted switchgear, engineering expertise and production flexibility allow for faster delivery to accommodate customers’ shortened timetables

As businesses and industries across the U.S. ramp up production to address COVID-19 equipment needs, Electro-Mechanical Corporation is committed to meeting delivery requirements across all product lines for our customers.

One of those customers is 3M. Since January, 3M has experienced unprecedented demand for N95 respirators and has been expanding production at its global manufacturing facilities. The company’s respirator supply chain is operating 24/7 worldwide, and production has doubled to more than 1.1 billion respirators per year, including 35 million a month in the U.S. The company expects to increase production to a monthly rate of 50 million in the U.S. this month, and to double global capacity again to 2 billion per year within the next 12 months.

Padmount Assembly

3M is adding 120,000 square feet to its Aberdeen, South Dakota facility to increase production there. Federal Pacific is providing a 15kV, dead-front type PSE-9 pad-mounted switchgear configuration in only eight weeks to support completion of the facility’s expansion by August.

Upon identification of the requirements, Federal Pacific will implement product shipment on a priority and emergency basis. The company has a broader range of pad-mounted switchgear than any other manufacturer. We listen to our customers, identify their unique needs, and incorporate those functional and operational features into a pad-mounted switchgear equipment platform that meets the user-specific operating requirements.

Padmount Assembly

Federal Pacific has been serving the electrical distribution industry for more than six decades. We have both the engineering know-how and the production flexibility to coordinate, design and develop application-specific equipment for the widest range of electric power producers and consumers … meeting your needs and delivering according to your time frame.

For more information, please visit federalpacific.com/.


EMC is now on Facebook and Twitter! Like and follow our pages for news, events and photos — and stay connected with us on LinkedIn.