The replacement transformer for the Bonne Terre substation that burned in October is expected to cross the Jefferson/St. Francois county line this Friday or Saturday.
Coming from a back-up stock of transformers in Gray Summit, it is currently close to Hillsboro, and its projected destination date is Feb. 18. It will have taken almost a month to travel just 60 miles.
At 20-feet wide and 328,000 pounds empty, it can only travel one mile per hour. It is bracketed by Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) vehicles in front to escort it, and behind it to warn motorists in the vicinity.
"The people doing this are volunteers," said Cpl. Juston Wheetley. "They are officers who happen to be off at the time of transportation so it's not like it's taking resources from somewhere else."
There are lots of different obstacles in its way, which is why the Missouri State Highway Patrol has to work with it.
“Along the way, power lines either need to be dropped or raised,” said Ameren Missouri Communications Executive Jeni Hagen.
Any time there’s a risk of inclement weather, or just a low temperature where people drive more poorly, they suspend travel for the day.
To explain why it took so long to even begin transporting it – three months after the meltdown – Hagen said, “there’s so many things that go into moving it. There are a lot of working parts that go into it. How many bridges you go over, how many highways you’re taking. The manufacturer has to come down and watch you disassemble it for transportation.”
Hagen explained that the substation in Bonne Terre is a transmission substation.
“This substation energizes other substations so you can’t pinpoint which areas it’s going to supply power to,” Hagen said.
It transfers energy to even more substations, which then provide power for a number of places.
The Bonne Terre substation has two transformers. The transformer that was left over has been carrying twice the load.
“This isn’t a backup transformer,” Hagen said. “When you’re getting power from an energy station, in this case Rush Island, you have to be able to send it somewhere, or else it can’t generate power."
Rush Island is a generating station in Jefferson County.
Without a second transformer, if the one leftover goes out, then none of its recipients would have power.