New Engineers Learn Utility Operations, Processes Not Taught in School

Dec. 17, 2007
RMEL hosted the “What Distribution Utility Entry Engineers Need to Know” Workshop on Dec. 4, 2007 at the Holiday Inn DIA in Denver, Colorado

RMEL hosted the “What Distribution Utility Entry Engineers Need to Know” Workshop on Dec. 4, 2007 at the Holiday Inn DIA in Denver, Colorado.

The day-long course featured presenters representing various companies located in Texas, Nebraska, Arizona, Kansas and Colorado. As, the first event of its kind hosted by RMEL, the workshop was designed to address critical knowledge new engineers do not learn while in school.

Sam Le, Engineer 4 at CPS Energy, kicked off the workshop with a review of “Fundamentals of Distribution System Protection.” He not only discussed the basic concepts and general requirements of distribution system protection, but also examined the specific types and coordination of protective devices.

By presenting actual configurations found in the field, Steve Young, senior engineer at Lincoln Electric System, outlined the importance of grounding distribution equipment in his session. Dan Harms, system engineer at La Plata Electric Association, then reviewed case studies of adding motors to distribution systems and demonstrated the software La Plata uses to perform an actual motor starting analysis.

JT Cawley, customer services & delivery distribution engineer at Nebraska Public Power District, showed participants how to correctly calculate transformer size in “Methods of Sizing Distribution Transformers for Commercial and Industrial Applications.” He provided advantages and disadvantages of several transformers, using previous installations from Nebraska Public Power District’s system for analysis.

The afternoon sessions started with an overview of fault current calculations, presented by Bob Micek, Fort Collins Utilities’ electric systems engineering manager. His presentation, entitled “How to Calculate Fault Current,” discussed how to apply fault current calculations in the areas of protective device coordination, arc flash hazards and equipment ratings. Tom Wenzl, senior distribution engineer at Aquila, followed with “Sagging and Tensioning of Overhead Conductors.” Using both the National Electric Safety Code and utility best practices, Wenzl explained how to determine span tensions for overhead conductors.

David Murphy, manager, Distribution Design & Construction at SRP, discussed ethics in the workplace. He presented material the SRP management team uses to apply fundamental ethical principals to decision making. In the next session, Kerry McBee, area engineer at Xcel Energy, explained how to minimize damage to equipment when pulling cable underground. He provided an overview of the forces at work along with industry recommendations and requirements.

The last session of the day featured “Distribution Wood Pole Strength Design,” presented by David Day, staff engineer at Westar Energy. Day reviewed the variables that must be considered when installing new poles. He also explained the design process Westar Energy uses to install reliable poles.

The event was highly rated by attendees such as Lauren Briggs of Tucson Electric Power because of the “breadth of topics and knowledgeable speakers.”

Robert Mestas of Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power commented he most valued the “experience of the speakers.”

Selected sessions from this workshop will be available through RMEL’s Video-on-Demand. The slides from all presentations at this workshop are also available in the Members Only section of the web site. For more information, please visit RMEL’s web site at

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