Powering Baldwin City

May 31, 2024


A step by step overview of Baldwin City’s power supply, where it comes from, and what happens when disruptions occur.

Story by Lynn Meador, with input from the City’s Electric Department. First published in The Maple Magazine, January 2024 Edition. Graphics created by The Maple.

Have you ever wondered how power gets to your house in Baldwin City? This handy guide is here to spill all the details you may or may not have thought of asking.

The town’s ever-growing electric needs are serviced by a power feed entering town from the east, and distributed through a substation to individual homes. If that feed and the backup feed from the south fails for any reason, the City fires up the large hybrid fueled engines (diesel or natural gas) out at the Public Works compound on Orange Street and sends power back through the substation from our own internal power generation source. If necessary, the diesel fueled engines at the centenarian power plant downtown are also used. It takes more staffing to run both power plants, so the older plant is usually saved for a last resort.

Failure from the external feed is out of our control and the cause – as well as the potential length of the outage – often remains unknown. Evergy owns and operates the transmission grid in this region, and there are many factors that play into when and how Baldwin City might get disconnected from the external grid. 

Street-specific outages and other small sections of town are internal disruptions to the City-owned grid. Here are a few things that may cause power failure or blinks inside city limits:

storm damage

trees on or in lines causing faults

vehicle accidents involving power poles

animals causing faults

equipment failure

Electric demand continues to grow as our population base grows, and also in response to people using more and more electric devices. A second substation is currently in the manufacturing stage, and should be operable within the next few years. This will allow more flexibility for repairs and maintenance, extending the life of the current substation and minimizing power outages.

FAQ

Why doesn’t the powerplant come on automatically when the power goes out?

There are any number of reasons the power may go out. Until we know the cause of the outage, and are sure it’s safe, it is dangerous and irresponsible to switch power sources. It could cause fire, injury, or death.

Why don’t we generate all our electricity locally?

It would be prohibitively expensive since the engines run on diesel or natural gas, as well as logistically demanding in terms of staff, among other things.

How much power are we currently capable of generating?

14 megawatts, with the recent engine purchases. It’s enough to power the whole town in case of an outage.

Would a second substation help?

A second substation would allow maintenance on the older substation without needing to shut the power off. It would also lower the load on the older substation, prolonging its life. City Council has approved funding and a contract for a second substation. It is currently in production offsite, and expected to be operable within the next few years.

Do power outages cause a power surge? 

Not necessarily. It’s usually like turning your lights on and off again. Surge protectors can be purchased inexpensively to install on your appliances or even for the whole house. There is an insurance claim process available at City Hall if you believe a power surge has damaged your devices.

Where does Baldwin City Purchase Power?

Our power comes from purchases from a public power pool. The infrastructure feeding power into town is owned by Evergy, and when we are not generating our own power, we are dependent on Evergy’s infrastructure.