Posted tagged ‘Pepco’

Then and Now: Pepco’s Harvard Street Substation

November 12, 2015

Here’s a great then and now comparison of the Pepco substation located at Harvard Street and Sherman Avenue. Substation No. 13 was built in 1907 and designed by architect Frederick B. Pyle. Currently, it is Pepco’s oldest operating substation and one of the oldest purpose-built substation buildings still standing. To keep up with demand, additions were also constructed in 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1944.

Below is an image of what it looked like in the late 1950s.

Harvard Substation late 1950s(Image courtesy of Pepco)

Substation No. 13 was the first purpose-built substation constructed outside of the boundaries of the original City of Washington. Compared to other substations built prior to 1929, the Harvard Substation is the most architecturally significant as it is unique in its inclusion of a hipped roof, dormer windows, and stone quoins. These details are likely the result of a two month battle between residents of Columbia Heights and the city which attempted to prevent the substation from being constructed. The resulting building was an attempt to make the building more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

Below is what the building looks like today.


Looking at Pepco’s Anacostia Substation

October 30, 2015
Pepco substation No. 8, located at 2415 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.

Pepco substation No. 8, located at 2415 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.

While Pepco is on most minds these days  due to the proposed merger with Exelon, I’ve been taking some time reviewing Pepco’s substations. There was a time when Pepco actually generated power, sold electrical appliances, and was part of a larger corporate structure that included streetcars. Today, all of that is gone leaving Pepco focused on distributing power to homes and businesses throughout the metropolitan area. The distribution of electric service is accomplished via Pepco’s many substations, which generally transform power voltage up or down between the electricity generated and the voltage needed for consumer needs.

One of the reasons I’ve been looking at substations is because some of them may be rebuilt, closed, or renovated in response to changing technology and the growth of Washington in the coming years. This will eventually include the substation at Harvard and Sherman Avenue, designated as substation No. 13. I’ll write more about this substation in the near future.


The Anacostia Substation (No. 8) was constructed in 1927, and is the third oldest substation in operation in the District of Columbia and the oldest operating substation east of the Anacostia River. The oldest is actually the one on Harvard Street (dating to 1907) and the second oldest is No. 21 located between 16th, 17th, K, and L streets NW (dating to 1923).

What is particularly noteworthy with the Anacostia substation is that it has survived 88 years with little to no loss to its architectural integrity.

With regards to the numbering of substations, I’ve also learned that while lower numbers may give some indication of age you can’t rely on them to help place substations in chronological order. Numbers can and have been reused. For example, Anacostia is substation No. 8 and was built in 1927. However, the original substation No. 8 was located in a building next to the Trinidad streetcar barn on Bennings Road.

Anacostia substation(A view along the east side of the building showing electrical equipment.)

Pepco’s Beautiful Depression Era Frescoes

March 25, 2015

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit Pepco’s Headquarters at Edison Place (701 Ninth Street, NW), you’ll have noticed two large artworks that appear to be paintings. These are actually frescoes created by artist James Michael Newell and commissioned by Pepco in 1931 for their headquarters building at 10th and E Streets, NW. As the Pepco headquarters has moved, so have the frescoes. They now hang at the far end of the entrance hall and nearby in the ground floor elevator lobby on Ninth Street.

The first fresco that a visitor encounters shows linemen working along the Potomac River (below).


As one turns towards the elevators, the companion piece again shows linemen working with the Benning Power Plant in the background.


Both artworks are accompanied by the following informational plaque:


Limited Power Outage Scheduled for Tonight in Northern Park View

March 24, 2015

Pepco is doing some maintenance work in the northern part of the neighborhood and power will be off in the affected area tonight from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am.  The outage will impact customers on the 600 block of Rock Creek Church Rd., 600 block of Quebec Pl., 3600 block of Park. Pl., 3600 block of Warder St. NW, and the 700 block of Princeton Pl. NW. Residents living in this area should have already received a door hanger alerting them of the disruption (example below).

Pepco outage sign(Pepco notice from door hanger)

The scheduled outage tonight is so that Pepco can replace a module. As this is an overnight outage, residents on the relevant blocks should plan accordingly with regards to alarm clocks and devices that require charging.

Pepco Planning Harvard Substation Upgrade

October 20, 2014
Pepco Substation No. 13, at Harvard and Sherman Avenue, with 2914 Sherman in the background.

Pepco Substation No. 13, at Harvard and Sherman Avenue, with 2914 Sherman in the background.

Here’s some interesting news. Recently, Pepco purchased the property at 2914 Sherman Avenue, NW. This purchase is part of Pepco’s ongoing efforts to provide safe and reliable electric service to residents. As part of their efforts to do this, they identified the need to upgrade the Harvard Substation located at Sherman Avenue and Harvard Street, NW. This substation is an early substation in the Pepco system (it’s no. 13) and was built in five stages. The original 1907 building was designed by architect Frederick B. Pyle. This was followed by additions designed by Arthur B. Heaton in 1920 and 1921. Further additions were added in 1929 and finally in 1944.

According to an email from Pepco,”they have determined that the Harvard Substation needs to be upgraded for several important reasons, including the age of the existing infrastructure and capacity requirements, and to ensure [that they] continue to provide safe and reliable electric service to … customers. The equipment and building itself is aged and needs to be upgraded.  In addition, electrical demand in the area has increased and improvements are needed in order to meet forecasted loads.”

2914 Sherman Avenue will be razed as part of the substation project.

2914 Sherman Avenue will be razed as part of the substation project.

Upgrades to the Harvard Substation must be complete by 2021. To facilitate these upgrades, Pepco purchased the abutting property at 2914 Sherman Avenue. As recently as January 2013, there were plans to renovate the building into 20 market-rate condos. After the developer gutted the building, work seemed to grind to a halt.

Pepco plans to demolish the existing multi-unit building and use it temporarily to complete the renovations and upgrades to the substation. While the project details have not been finalized, Pepco anticipates that the substation improvements will likely proceed in five phases, which they have outlined below:

  • Establish a temporary substation. Before Pepco begins replacing existing infrastructure at the substation, they will first establish a temporary substation on the property adjacent to the substation.  They will need to create a temporary substation so that they can continue to provide electric service in the area while the existing substation is out of service.  Work to construct the temporary substation will likely start in 2018.
  • Transfer electric load to temporary substation site. Once Pepco has established the temporary site, they will transfer the load from the Harvard substation to the temporary substation.
  • Rebuild Harvard Substation. Pepco anticipates the rebuilding work at the Harvard Substation to begin immediately following the electric load transfer to the temporary substation. Plans for the rebuild have not been completed; however, Pepco intends to work with the community to ensure the design is harmonious with neighboring architectural themes and the property use is appropriate for continued operation.
  • Transfer electric load back to Harvard Substation. After the upgrades are completed, the electric load will be transferred back from the temporary substation and the Harvard Substation will resume providing electric service in 2021.
  • Disassemble the temporary substation. Following the load transfers, the temporary substation will be disassembled.

Pepco has determined that upgrading substation no. 13 is essential to maintain and improve the overall reliability and electric service for residents in the communities surrounding the substation.

I’ll share more information about this project as it moves forward and more information is known.

Where Will Pepco Be Upgrading Ward 1 Infrastructure?

May 22, 2014

Harvard Conversion ProjectDuring the April 8th community meeting with Pepco, ANC 1A invited Pepco to come to their May14th meeting to provide an update on local infrastructure improvements and give an indication of what projects are planned for the next couple of years. Here’s what was learned at that meeting.

In addition to the work Pepco is wrapping up in the 14th Street and Park Road area, there are additional phases planned. The next phase of the Harvard Conversion project will be increasing the capacity of cables from 4 kV to 13 kV .  During this phase, Pepco will be extending 2 new underground feeders to bring in additional capacity to the area so that they will be able to transfer load and reconfigure their system.  Pepco will begin by constructing approximately 4,000 feet of conduit, 11 manholes, and 2 switches.  Next, crews will install and splice approximately 8,000 feet of new cable.  Finally, a scheduled outage will be required to energize the new cables.  Construction is scheduled to begin July 2014 with completion targeted for March 2015 (See fact Sheet here and map above).

Following this phase of the project, Pepco will be able to convert additional feeders from 4 kV to 13 kV. The map below includes future 2015 and 2016 locations of the Harvard Conversion, in addition to already completed areas of the project. On the map, Pepco wanted to note that some of the 2015 areas defined by the green line have already had cables replaced during corrective actions; however, the 2015 work will be to increase capacity and convert the feeder from 4 kV to 13 kV.

Finally, the area bounded by the orange square in the map below is where Pepco is completing a load study. During the April community meeting, they shared that they would be completing manhole inspections and analyzing data from smart meters to identify areas that may need cable or transformer replacements. In April they conducted field analysis on 79 transformers and found no overloading conditions.

Harvard Conversion

Brief Overview of Columbia Heights/Pepco Outage Meeting

April 10, 2014

In response to three major power outages in the area surrounding the 1300 blocks of Park Road and Monroe Street, and the 3300 blocks of Holmead Place and 13th Street as well as 11th Street since last Thanksgiving, a public meeting was held on Tuesday, April 8th, that included Councilmember Graham, the Office of People’s Counsel, ANC1A Commissioner Patrick Flynn and PEPCO officials. ANC1A Commissioners Kent Boese  and Kevin Holmes were also in attendance, as was ANC1B Chair James Turner.

There was a reasonably good turnout, and after an overview by PEPCO on what caused the power outages and what PEPCO is doing to resolve the situation and prevent future outages, the floor opened up to general questions. PEPCO also provided a three page fact sheet that provided an overview of the Columbia Heights situation, a projected timeline of the work currently underway, and listed three planned outages that are necessary to complete the system upgrades. The first two outages will be on  April 14th and April 21st. The date of the third outage has not been scheduled yet, but all work is expected to be completed by early May 2014.

Some residents in attendance stated that they’ve had power outages since 2003, and the PEPCO representatives responded that they understood their frustration. They also expressed a need to know specific addresses as that would assist them in understanding the particular transformer/feed serving the properties and give them a better understanding of where problems may exist.

Councilmember Graham asked why 14th Street north of Park Road (including Monroe Street) was experiencing problems as he understood that the infrastructure had been replaced during the major development that resulted in the Civic Plaza and DC USA. PEPCO responded that those improvements were located south of Park Road and that the area north of Park Road now being upgraded is on a different section of the system.

While PEPCO did a good job explaining what caused the outages and how they are resolving the problem, larger questions still remain. When asked if they could provide an idea of the general age of the electrical infrastructure under Columbia Heights, they stated that the did not know. When asked if they collected data that would help them track power demand in the area and predict growth in demand for electricity, PEPCO stated that they have been doing this as well as possible and have reached out to DCRA to have better data on building activity. PEPCO did state that the new smart meters will greatly improve their ability to track power usage and plan upgrades to support projected demand. PEPCO was a bit vague on whether or not there are any other known areas within the immediate community that they are reviewing for potential upgrades. This question requires follow up and PEPCO has been invited back to the May ANC1A meeting to provide additional information and updates on their progress.

Commissioner Flynn in particular emphasized the need for PEPCO to develop better and more effective methods of communicating with both the ANC and community — especially during outages — a position that was supported by many at the meeting. Along these lines one resident recommended that part of PEPCO’s outreach during scheduled power outages could include a list of known businesses not impacted by an outage where residents could go to charge phones or find shelter should they have an immediate need that requires power.

Columbia Heights Pepco map 2014(Map provided by PEPCO at the meeting showing recent power upgrades (green) and upgrades in progress (blue))

Of importance to anyone who experience a loss due to the PEPCO outages that they are of the opinion is the responsibility of PEPCO, it was shared during the meeting that they may file a claim by calling 202-872-2452. Claims assistants are available to speak with customers between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are different forms for residents and business owners.

Upon a claim being filed, it will be assigned to a member of our Claims Department, who will investigate the claim to determine whether or not there is any liability on the part of Pepco. When our investigation has been completed, the customer will be contacted and advised as to our position on your claim.

All claims are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, relative to the information that is submitted and the related investigation and findings.

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