Boosting System Reliability

A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating a newly constructed Community Electric Cooperative substation west of Suffolk was held earlier this week.The new Copeland Substation will improve system reliability for CEC’s member-owners, particularly in and near the City of Suffolk, by balancing demand for electricity among existing members while also facilitating the system’s expansion.

State Delegate Emily Brewer, State Delegate Clinton Jenkins, City of Suffolk Director of Public Works Robert Lewis, Suffolk City Councilman Timothy Johnson, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s Stephanie Kane, and Virginia Maryland Delaware Association of Electric Cooperative’s Sadie Gary joined CEC President and CEO Steven Harmon at the event.

“This is an exciting day for Community Electric and our members,” Harmon said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team members, nor more appreciative of the jurisdictions represented here today, that we are ready to energize Copeland and enhance the quality of life for many thousands of people in our region.”

Copeland is the first new substation added to CEC’s distribution infrastructure since the Shadyside Substation near Southampton High School was built 30 years ago, although the Pagan Substation received a major rebuild in 2005. Copeland will replace the Lummis delivery point that has a lower power rating and, thus, Copeland can have electricity flowing through it at a higher capacity and a more reliable pace.

“This is a really awesome opportunity actually for Community Electric and the community, for so many different reasons,” Brewer said. “Post-pandemic, we’ve seen more people wanting to locate to rural areas, more people who want to telework, and more people who want to build homes in rural areas. Community Electric is going to be able to provide the future for economic development prospects, new housing and increasing reliability for their current customers, which is an absolutely huge asset to this community.”

CEC provides electricity to more than 11,000 households and businesses in Suffolk, Isle of Wight and Southampton County. The cooperative’s growth rate over the past 15 years has averaged about 1.5 percent annually, with the most recent three years averaging 5 percent growth. By increasing the robustness of Community Electric’s distribution infrastructure, the Copeland Substation will reduce the risks posed by manmade or natural disasters that have the potential to cause a widespread power outage. The substation will help members benefit from a more reliable and resilient power supply.

“This is good for the community and the area at large,” Jenkins said. “It’s not just for the residents; it’s for the economy as well. I’m proud of the whole process, to see it evolve and see it come to fruition.”

Karl Piersing, a CEC member who lives near the substation and attended the ribbon-cutting, said he is excited to see the addition to the cooperative’s infrastructure. “It’s going to provide a lot of relief and peace of mind because the power situation is going to be less constrained,” he said.

In the event of natural and manmade disasters that may interrupt power at any of CEC’s substations, Community Electric is fortunate to develop and partner with RECORE, an energy solutions provider, to create a microgrid for the headquarters office. This microgrid allows all office personnel and communication to remain intact.

“Notwithstanding our strong performance in this area already, Community Electric is committed to creating a more durable electric system that our members can count on even during periods of extreme weather and other emergency response situations,” Harmon said. “The new Copeland Substation is a key element of that larger vision.”