American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) completed last week at a cost of nearly $15 million the installation of an additional transformer in its Dumont Station in South Bend, providing the opportunity for Michigan to increase imports of electricity from outside the state by 2,000 megawatts.

“This will significantly benefit Michigan consumers throughout the Lower Peninsula by improving our capability to transfer electric power into Michigan,” said Greg Clark, AEP’s governmental affairs manager in Lansing. “Two thousand megawatts is enough electricity to power 1.6 million homes. And the timing couldn’t be better. It’s just in time for the upcoming peak summer demand. Greater basis for capability means Michigan’s customers will have more reliable access to competitive power supply options. And the transfer capability will give Michigan’s customers who decide to choose greater access and therefore more choices.”

Michigan’s electric restructuring legislation required the additional capacity be built in order to expand Michigan’s access to outside power supplies, and thereby provide customers with more choices. “This stands in stark contrast to California’s electric restructuring legislation, which failed to grapple with such issues,” said Clark.

The 1,500-mva transformer doubles the transformer capacity of the Dumont Station, increasing the deliverability of power into Michigan by 2,000 megawatts, said Paul Johnson, AEP’s manager of East Bulk Transmission Planning. The program also required Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy to improve their transmission-receiving capability.

“It’s an enormous improvement that will increase AEP’s ability to transmit power from electricity generators to many Midwest destinations, even west into Chicago,” said Johnson.

Preparation of the site began last October, and it took 6-8 weeks to prepare the components for shipment. The transformer itself is made up of three components, or phases, each of which sits 30-feet wide and 60-feet long. Each part had to be shipped by individual railcar to a receiving depot near South Bend, and then transferred onto specially designed trucks for the rest of the trip to the installation site. Because of their weight - each component weighed 130-150 tons - the trucks hauling them had to be permitted and bonded.

The transformer will receive electricity at 765,000V and convert it to 345,000V for retransmission.