In the technology capital of the world, some might say that reliable electricity is more valuable than gold.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the city of Santa Clara is home to dozens of massive hardware and software companies, including Intel, McAfee, Avaya and WhatsApp. But these tech giants would be unable to function if it wasn’t for the IBEW 1245 members at Silicon Valley Power, Santa Clara’s municipal utility.
These dedicated members work to ensure that every aspect of the city’s electrical system, from the power plant to the transformers and the overhead lines, are fully functional and able to meet the needs of the tech companies, as well as the city’s residents and other businesses.
Two Things At Once
Efficiency is a highly revered skill in Silicon Valley. Line crew foreman Brandon Quijada and crew members Chris Foster, Mark Guerrero and Brian Goshia proved that they’ve perfected that skill as they multi-tasked at a job site on El Camino Real, where a developer is putting up a large-scale apartment complex.
“We’re doing two things at once,” said Quijada. “We’re heating up two padmount transformers from an overhead feed, and at the same time we’re cleaning up some of the older existing [equipment], because we no longer need the aerial transformers now that we have the padmount transformers. We’re also making sure that the secondary is labeled correctly while we’re attaching it to the transformer.”
Across town, another line crew, comprised of Dawie Coetzee, Matt Elliott, Matt Contreras and Jesse Murrill, was tasked with changing out wire, as well as re-framing and re-insulating all the poles, on several spans of the Serra-Brokaw 60kv line
“This section of line needs to get upgraded from 954 aluminum to this new 3M wire … which is a composite core wire that has double the capacity of the 954,” explained crew foreman Dawie Coetzee. “All the 12kv that’s underneath here had to be de-energized to make it safe, and the way we did that is we re-routed all the secondary from different sources, which enabled us to de-energize the entire section on 12kv running underneath the 60kv line.”
Cap Bank Repair
As anyone who works with power knows, things sometimes go awry. When a glitch occurred in a capacitor bank at Lafayette substation, Utility Electricians Leon Alcantar and Chris Guerrero were on hand to identify and fix the problem.
“The cap bank tripped off line due to imbalance. So we’ve taken the cap bank out of service, tested it dead and grounded it, and we’re in the process of trying to isolate the possible blown capacitor,” Alcantar explained. “There’s also fuses involved, so we’ve checked all the fuses to be in working order, now we’re trying to isolate the possible bad capacitor.”
At the Plant
Over at SVP’s gas-powered generation plant, Local 1245 members man the control room, survey the equipment and conduct any maintenance that may be needed to keep the plant fully operational.
Electric Utility Generation Technician Anthony Harnish detailed his role in the plant’s operations and maintenance department.
“I’m an outside operator, so I tour the plant and take readings on specific equipment, and respond to any plant alarms that the control room operator receives by checking it out in the field,” said Harnish. “I also do water chemistry samples, and take deliveries of chemicals and other materials for the plant as necessary.”
“Powering the Center of What’s Possible”
SVP’s slogan, “Powering the Center of What’s Possible,” demonstrates its unique role in facilitating some of the greatest achievements in technological history, and its unrivaled commitment to quality is what attracts many tech companies to Santa Clara. According to the utility’s website, “SVP consistently ranks in the top quartile for several key measures of reliability;” which is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of the IBEW 1245 members.
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Photos by John Storey