RANTOUL — The village will switch to using fuses for a portion of its electrical system to replace a malfunctioning circuit breaker that has caused several power issues in recent weeks.
Assistant Director of Public Works Jake McCoy said the fuses should be available in about a month at a total cost of $20,000 — far cheaper and available sooner than replacing the circuit breaker at an estimated cost of $515,000 for delivery a year from now.
“We’re pretty confident it will work,” McCoy said, noting the village’s other substations are fuse-protected.
He said the village didn’t take the circuit breaker out of commission before because there had been no problem.
“We didn’t want to take it out of commission if it was working,” he said. “We had just had problems in the last two weeks.”
The circuit breaker had been operating since 1967, when it was installed to ensure safety for line workers on two generators that became operational in 1951.
Those two generators, ironically, are no longer used. However, when the circuit breaker trips, it knocks out power for the entire village.
Until the new fuses can be installed, line workers have rerouted power to different circuits. The village operates with eight electric substations.
McCoy said all the other substations are equipped with fuses.
So far, rerouting the power to spread the load over more circuits has worked, although there was a problem July 11 due to high heat.
McCoy said the village has only one generator in service, which controls the water plant.
The rest have been decommissioned since the mid-2000s due to higher emissions standards, McCoy said.
The village still has eight 1-megawatt generators it can use in emergencies when dispatched to do so by the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, of which it is a member. McCoy estimated that happens three to four times a year.
McCoy said other power outages have been caused by a variety of sources, including bad weather and animal damage.
Among the animal-damage cases are two instances of scavenger birds (vultures) whose wings are short out transformers.
He said the village is doing all it can to prevent outages.
“We’ve been doing a good job of cleaning the trees, right-of-ways and easements up,” to prevent problems, McCoy said.
Rantoul is one of just 35 Illinois communities with its own electrical system, which reduces costs and provides local control over issues and problems, McCoy said.
It gets its service from Ameren coal-fired generators.