A day in the life of Lead Substation Electrician Adam Malsom

Adam Malsom
Adam Malsom, Basin Electric lead substation electrician

Adam Malsom, Basin Electric lead substation electrician, has always been fascinated by electricity. “I don’t want to say I ‘played’ with electricity when I was a kid, but I definitely was intrigued with it and how it works,” he says.

Malsom is one of six people that make up the Huron, South Dakota, Transmission System Maintenance (TSM) outpost. He, along with two other electricians, two system protection technicians, and a telecommunications technician work to maintain substations and communication sites that cover about 18,000 square miles of service territory in eastern South Dakota.

Malsom grew up on a family farm in Ipswich, South Dakota. After graduating high school, he attended North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton where he earned an associate’s degree in electronic servicing. His first job out of college was doing service work on sound, telephone, and intercom systems at a business in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He then worked at a disc drive manufacturing facility, working on robotics as the technology and equipment evolved over time.

Malsom began working for Basin Electric in 2010. “The power industry has always interested me, and it is really nice to be able to work outside, not locked in a building every day,” he says. “I really enjoy it.”

Malsom says inspections and testing are the biggest and his favorite parts of his job at Basin Electric. As a rule, electricians at the Huron outpost inspect 15 sites around the perimeter of Huron every two months to ensure everything is working properly.

“We check to make sure breakers open and close like they’re supposed to, monitor transformers and switches, and make sure the batteries that serve as backups in case the substation loses power are working,” he says. “It’s basically ensuring the overall health of the equipment at these sites. And if something doesn’t work like it should, we troubleshoot what is going on and fix it.”

Each substation is also on a five-year maintenance schedule, where equipment is tested in detail to ensure the substation’s reliability. Maintenance is typically done during the summer months.

Traveling is a big part of Malsom’s job, and he says that he easily drives 30,000 miles per year going to all of the substations he and his crew serve.

For the last several months, the crew has also been hard at work updating the Broadland substation near Huron, a substation that takes power generated at Antelope Valley Station from 345-kilovolts (kV) and steps it down to 230-kV so it can safely travel the distribution lines and power homes in Huron and beyond. “We’ve replaced all the bushings, switches, light arrestors, safety devices, changed out sensors… it’s really almost a whole new substation,” Malsom says.

After Malsom and his crew spent every day since late May replacing equipment and testing and retesting it all to ensure it works the way it should, the new and improved Broadland substation went live on July 27. The Broadland project is part of Basin Electric’s Aging Substation Infrastructure Replacement Initiative, a project with the goal of strengthening and modernizing the cooperative’s infrastructure, much of which was constructed between the 1960s and 1980s.

Malsom says he enjoys his job and working for Basin Electric, because the co-op family feels just like – well – a family. “I work closely with the others at the Huron shop, but also with a lot of the people who work at East River (Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Class A member in Madison, South Dakota). They’re all very nice, down-to-earth people. And knowing that I am playing a part in keeping my community’s lights on makes me feel good about what I do for a living,” he says. “Often when people realize who I work for, especially after an outage caused by a storm, they are very appreciative for the work I do and the role I play in getting power to their homes. Others don’t even know we’re here (at the Huron TSM facility), which is actually a good thing. It means we’re doing our jobs.”

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