Xcel, Fort McCoy upgrade electrical grid for efficiency, resiliency

FORT McCOY, Wis. (WKBT) — Xcel Energy and Fort McCoy are working to upgrade the installation’s electrical system with a more reliable grid.

Xcel workers and linemen, as well as contracted workers, began the work this month and are expected to continue grid upgrades throughout the year.

“The project involves switching from a Delta Electrical System to a Wye Electrical System,” said Brandon Gronau with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division Energy Branch.

Both are three-phase systems but are wired differently, he said.

Wye uses a wire for each electrical leg and a separate neutral wire, while Delta has only three wires because it uses one as the neutral wire, Gronau explained.

Xcel is the installation’s electrical privatization contractor, so it owns all of the electrical infrastructure on the post.

“Delta can be an unreliable system and is outdated,” Gronau said. “We are the only Delta system that Xcel has in the state, so in order to standardize all of their equipment, they made the decision to change us over, too.”

The change is good for Fort McCoy’s future, Gronau said.

“Fort McCoy’s part in this is resiliency,” Gronau said. “Because Xcel is changing everything anyway, we decided that we wanted to move all of our overhead electrical that is inside the cantonment area underground as part of our move to making Fort McCoy more energy resilient.”

The crews are replacing poles on South Post to upgrade the infrastructure to support the change.

Fort McCoy leaders also look for ways to improve energy efficiency, Gronau said, which is why it incorporates alternative energy sources like solar around the post.

They are preparing to run a pilot program for U.S. Army Reserve Command to test a combined heat and power (CHP) unit, he said.

“A CHP is a generator-type unit that runs off of natural gas, producing electricity where the heat generated from the motor is then used to provide hot water either for space heating or domestic water,” Gronau said.

The installation can put a CHP in a building that has a high demand for hot water “to power a portion of the building for the price of the same natural gas consumed originally within the building to heat its hot water demand, equating to free electricity.

“While providing a cost savings for Fort McCoy, it also provides electric resiliency for powered circuits during an electric utility outage for that building,” Gronau said.

This story includes information from Scott Sturkol of the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office