Located in south-central Michigan, the City of Coldwater’s convenient location and quality of life beckon both residents and businesses alike, making reliable power essential in this quaint and thriving community. In recent years, Coldwater also has attracted a number of significant industrial developments, bringing new jobs and opportunity to the area.
Coldwater’s electricity needs have long been served by the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU); its hallmarks being reliability, customer service and responsiveness. So, in 2015, when Clemens Food Group made the decision to invest more than $255 million in a new pork processing plant and bring 800 new jobs to Coldwater (this number has now grown to over 1,200 direct and indirect jobs created), the CBPU and ITC got to work planning system improvements that would support power quality and the area’s growing load.
At the time, Coldwater was served by two transmission feeds coming into the city, but on the same structures. “This presented some risk to our industrial customers. We wanted to provide more redundancy that would reduce that risk, not only for Clemens Food Group but for our other industrial customers that depend on reliable power,” said Jeff Budd, Utility Director for Coldwater Board of Public Utilities. Coldwater also is home to Maroa Farms, Asama Coldwater Manufacturing and a WalMart distribution center, among others.
The approach: a two-phase, multi-year project that would bring new substations and transmission lines to the City of Coldwater, and in Coldwater, Girard and Union Townships, providing the system redundancy that Coldwater required.
Phase oneof the project consisted of a new substation called Newton that connects to the existing Michigan Avenue substation via a three-mile, 138kV, single-circuit transmission line. Construction began in late 2016 and was completed in early 2017. Phase twoof the project consisted of a new substation called Wagner that connects both the existing Verona – Batavia 138kV transmission line, as well as the Newton substation via a new 138kV single-circuit transmission line. Construction of the Wagner substation, and Wagner – Newton transmission line was completed in late 2019. Construction of the Butters substation, which began in early 2020, and connects to the existing Coldwater – Michigan Ave 138 kV line, was wrapped up in December 2020, essentially completing the project.
“The tremendous amount of work over the years really speaks to the focus and dedication of both the Coldwater and ITC teams to improving the Coldwater system. We appreciate that ITC was willing to work with our industrial customers to minimize the impact on their production. The partnership between ITC, Coldwater Board of Public Utilities and our industrial customers was very unique and necessary to get the job done.”
– Andrew Cameron, Electrical Engineer, Coldwater Board of Public Utilities
Following the completion of a multi-year project to provide system redundancy in the Coldwater region, ITC performed vegetation management work clearing trees within its easement to ensure the safety, reliability and grid integrity expected throughout Coldwater.
Severe weather in the summer of 2021 tested the upgraded system in Branch County. While there were major power disruptions in the area, the transmission system held strong and the majority of ITC’s customers in Coldwater, including Clemens Food Group, Maroa Farms, and other industrial customers were not impacted. The strong performance of the transmission system is a great testament illustrating the importance of ITC’s proactive maintenance programs.
Now, as Coldwater looks to the future, its infrastructure has become a selling point to attract new investment, especially in rural areas that previously weren’t able to compete. Says Budd, “When it comes to economic development, where we’re located, we’re competing with Indiana and Ohio. A potential customer always wants to know about the quality of the power. Now, we take them out and show them our infrastructure, show them the ITC substations and how we’ve built redundancy into our system. It makes a big difference.”