After overcoming a few years of unavoidable, unrelated challenges, Entergy Louisiana and Burns & McDonnell have begun helicopter operations to construct the utility’s 16.3-mile, 230-kV Waterford to Vacherie transmission line.
By significantly upgrading local power delivery infrastructure to a higher rating, the critical project will address future load growth and reliability needs in southeast Louisiana for the more than 1.3 million residents served by Entergy in the region.
In 2018, Entergy Louisiana selected Burns & McDonnell to rebuild the high-voltage transmission line from the utility’s Waterford to Vacherie substations through the marshes of southern Louisiana. To execute the project, Burns & McDonnell planned to transport transmission structures with helicopters from the laydown yard into the marsh, and then use swamp equipment to set the assets.
During the same year, Entergy elected to halt all aerial operations and holistically reevaluate the use of helicopters for project delivery. Based on new standards and practices — which included a phased-gate process for approvals — the utility re-instituted the ability to utilize helicopter operations near the end of 2019. The Entergy and Burns & McDonnell team devised an execution process that allowed Waterford-to-Vacherie work to begin — creating a plan that would optimize flight operations, lessen impacts on the environment and minimize overall work hours.
The project team's planned remobilization to the field in August 2020 was delayed by the arrival of Hurricane Laura. The storm caused significant damage to Entergy’s grid throughout its Louisiana service territory, which Burns & McDonnell supported in restoring power. During that time, focus switched from transmission upgrades to restoring power to the utility’s 219 transmission lines, 292 substations, 3,729 transformers and 18,707 spans of wire that were damaged.
Part of the firm’s emergency response included repurposing the existing structures that had been delivered for the Waterford to Vacherie project. When the collective dust settled after the joint storm response, the combined project teams worked to develop several different iterations of how the project could be executed throughout 2021, including if summer outages could be granted, minimization to crop damages during the sugar cane growing season and the schedule within which the transmission pole manufacturer could deliver replacement structures.
“Electrical transmission and distribution facilities continue to play an important role for our society — they connect us to green energy, power our economy and provide the reliability needed to keep us safe,” says Jeff Allen, vice president and regional Construction/Design-Build Group manager for Burns & McDonnell in Houston. “Our experience in and commitment to finding new solutions for traditional overhead transmission challenges leads the industry in providing for the future. We are proud to collaborate with Entergy to deliver this vital project in support of Louisianans.”
Burns & McDonnell, with experienced professionals who have developed some of the largest transmission and distribution projects in North America, leverages its multidisciplined construction team to optimize project delivery and tailor solutions to fit the needs of every customer.
Using an integrated engineer-procure-construct (EPC) approach, the firm has the industry-leading team needed to power projects to the finish line, on time and on budget. Burns & McDonnell ranks No. 1 in Power, is the No. 2 design firm in the Texas and Louisiana region, and ranks among the top construction firms worldwide, according to Engineering News-Record.