The PG&E Substation on Halliday St in Vallejo is approximately 80 years old, and while the facility and its equipment remain functional, it was certainly due for a little facelift.
An IBEW 1245 crew from Civil Substations Inc was called in to give the substation a new lease on life this fall, including taking out the outdated structures and equipment and replacing them with all new construction.
“We did a complete demolition,” explained IBEW 1245 member Benjamin Baber, who served as crew foreman on the project. “We’re putting in a new transformer pad times four, a new control billing pad, containment, and the wall around the substation itself.”
The work itself isn’t out of the ordinary, but the limited space available at the yard presented a unique set of challenges.
“It is a small, tight area, and everything has to be well orchestrated. When you have to move six things to get one thing accomplished — and then you have to put those six things back to where they were — it makes it challenging … It hinders everyday operations,” said Baber. “We’re losing real estate on a daily basis, every time we pour a pad, and especially [with the setting of] the building, which takes up a quarter of this yard.”
When the Utility Reporter caught up with Baber and his crew, they were already several weeks into the project. The demolition was complete and the old transformers had been removed, and one new transformer had already been installed and energized. Baber noted that the next step in the project involved setting the switchgear building, which arrived in two parts. The heaviest piece weighed around 50,000 lbs and required a 350-ton crane to set it — but given the close quarters, the crane had to go all the way up and over the building.
“Next week, we’re pouring the final transformer pad, that would be transformer #1. We’re going to be finishing up the control conduits, and then starting to work on the containment,” said Baber. “The remaining three transformers will come in on the 18th — and those weigh about 94,000 lbs a piece, because they have the oil inside of them already.”
Baber noted that some of the members of the surrounding community were not to pleased when the crew put up a new external wall around the sub.
“I think they were under the impression that it was going to be a more architectural panel, possibly with some nature scenes worked into the concrete,” Baber surmised. “But as of right now, the design of the outer wall around the existing building … is up for review by the community.”
Baber, who was initiated into the IBEW in 2011, is proud to be a member of Local 1245, and feels strongly that it has had a positive influence on his life and livelihood.
“The union’s great! The benefit package, the brotherhood, the camaraderie … Organized labor, you can’t get any better!”
Photos by John Storey