Representatives from Westar Energy shed a little light on the company’s recent service issues and discussed plans to improve during an open house Thursday evening.
Westar, which provides power to nearly 45,000 customers in Douglas County, has had reliability issues in recent months. Power outages, the majority caused by equipment failures, have affected many area residents, who have let the company know of their displeasure.
“It’s frustrating,” area resident Robert Lewis said. “This is an embarrassment.”
Westar employees worked to explain the processes in action to help resolve the service issues. Among them are plans, nearly 70 percent complete, to replace cable from the Sixth Street substation. The cables are made with superior materials and are thicker, making them less likely to fail or break, according to Jeff McKee, director of operations for Westar’s Lawrence division. He said Westar services needed to improve.
“Basically we’ve had some issues with reliability,” he said. “These issues do not meet Westar Energy standards.”
Plans are in place to help alleviate the problems, many of which are coming out of the Sixth Street substation, which serves about 7,500 customers in Lawrence. While equipment failure accounts for the majority of outages, it is not the only cause. Lightning, wildlife, public damage and trees are also among the culprits responsible for power outages each year.
Mike Horniman, the vegetation management supervisor, said trees are like roads, with constant maintenance necessary to keep things functioning.
Trees often cause shorts in circuits when they come into contact with power lines. Horniman said it’s not always easy to get them trimmed.
“We still realize there are sentimental values to certain trees,” Horniman said about trimming people’s property. “We hate to leave ugly trees, though.”
Westar hopes to have what remains of the project near completion by the end of the year, weather allowing. In the meantime, McKee said, they’ll keep on doing what needs to be done.
“We just try to react and get people out to get the power back on,” he said. “As soon as we can.”