DTE substation delayed by complexities as another power outage hits Ferndale

The approximate location of the new DTE substation on Hilton Road near the railroad tracks.
The approximate location of the new DTE substation on Hilton Road near the railroad tracks.

Last week I posted about DTE Energy’s announcement that it is making $76 million in upgrades to the energy grid to improve service to more than 30,000 customers in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Troy who experience regular power outages (hello!).

Besides installing new utility poles and equipment, which are evident throughout the neighborhoods in Ferndale, the utility said it was constructing a new substation in Ferndale, something that had been in the works since at least 2014, according to the Daily Tribune.

So I had asked DTE about the delay. After all, my neighborhood experienced at least two outages this summer, and part of Ferndale experienced an outage just last night (more on that below). I’m not alone in thinking these upgrades can’t come soon enough.

Today, I heard back from DTE spokeswoman Lisa Bolla. I’ve pasted her response to my questions below:

Size and previous ownership of the parcel

The new substation in Ferndale will be located on a 1.6 acre parcel of land at 1550 Hilton Road. There is a set of railroad tracks that crosses Hilton Road just south of 9 mile. The substation will be located on a parcel of land just adjacent to the railroad tracks.  Previously, the land was privately owned.

Project schedule

You referenced a 2014 Daily Tribune article in which DTE says the substation will be operational in 2016. According to our current schedule, the substation will be operational by June of 2017.

The delay occurred because “below grade” construction work (i.e., digging and installation of conduit and underground power lines)  required more time than we initially anticipated.  To build a substation, it’s necessary for DTE to install underground power lines. The purpose of these power lines is to connect the new substation with the existing electrical system.  With this particular parcel of land, the process of installing these underground lines without disturbing other infrastructure or existing structures was complex. So, design and construction took longer than we originally planned.

Meanwhile, there was another blackout Monday night in Ferndale, affecting about 1,000 customers, Bolla said. Based on my observation of it, while returning home from running errands, the outage area appeared confined to the east side of Woodward Avenue, bounded by Eight Mile and Hilton. I’m not sure how far north it spread.

Service was interrupted around 8:30 p.m. and was restored around 11 p.m., Bolla said.

My wife just told me that we received an automated phone call today from DTE saying we might be experiencing another outage due to “equipment failure.” Our service was not affected, but it’s a peek into the energy supply shortcomings in our city.

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