Basin Electric employees race the clock to beat an energy emergency

North Dakotans are a hardy bunch. They have to be. The weather swings in the state are legendary. It’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a matter of days. In mid-February, that season was decidedly winter. The state sported temperatures in the minus-30-degree Fahrenheit range, crowning a cold snap that blanketed almost the entire middle part of the country.

In typical North Dakota fashion, life moved on despite the deep freeze. People continued to work, however, some critical equipment in the Leland Olds Station switchyard decided it had enough of the cold. A breaker malfunctioned, taking the power plant’s second unit offline at a time when demand for electricity was climbing to critical levels in the region.

Switchyard at Leland Olds Station near Stanton, North Dakota.

Employees from Basin Electric’s Transmission System Maintenance (TSM) division stepped up for what became a marathon battle in the cold. They prevailed, reconnecting the unit to the grid before the energy emergency began.


It was 2 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. While much of the world was cozy and warm in bed, Karl Edler, Basin Electric substation electrician, and TiAnna Stevens, Basin Electric system protection technician, were en route to the Leland Olds Station switchyard near Stanton, North Dakota, to investigate an alarm on a breaker that took Unit 2 offline. A breaker is designed to open and interrupt the flow of electricity when system protection equipment detects a fault.

Leland Olds Unit 2 has two breakers in the 345-kilovolt substation that keep the generator connected to the grid when closed. One of the breakers was out of service due to previous issues with one of its isolating disconnect switches. Stevens and Edler found the second breaker had tripped, and the trip circuit resistors had burned up. The resistors would need to be replaced before the breaker could be put back into service. The Leland Olds switchyard breakers’ age and design are known issues and are scheduled to be replaced in 2024 as part of Basin Electric’s Aging Infrastructure Initiative.

The team isolated the breaker and reported back to the supervisor.

“We needed more hands. It was a bigger problem than we anticipated,” Stevens says.

Jason Richter, Basin Electric lead substation electrician, joined the callout around 5:30 a.m. He and Stevens worked together with Edler to make a plan: fix the breaker that had tripped that morning, and work on the other breaker’s disconnect switch while they were on site. The plan, however, was foiled by cold weather and aging equipment.

This meter showed record lows as the TSM team worked to get Leland Olds Station Unit 2 back onto the grid.

Read more about how the TSM division battled the cold in the spring issue of Basin Today

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