- Microwave Redesign & Refresh
KCP&L's microwave redesign and refresh projects bring a secure, reliable and sustainable network of continuous service for customers across its service territory. Redundancy is built into the nework, with multiple microwave paths engineered to reduce the number of sites affected by outages and provide more efficient maintenance protocols.
Despite complex coordination requirements and a significantly compressed schedule, we delivered the project on time and within budget. We led the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) project to design a new microwave radio system within a 200-mile radius of Kansas City, including remote areas. This resulted in 45 new and redesigned paths, which affected the tower and infrastructure design at each of the path end points.
We completed site surveys, completed path analyses for the microwave paths and identified potential new tower locations. For each site, we completed battery calculations and recommended modifications, HVAC design and modifications, tower obstruction lighting design and modifications, battery system design, upgrades and modifications, and generator and fuel tank design and replacements. Our team worked with KCP&L to write the microwave radio and alarm management system technical RFPs and identify top two microwave radio and alarm management system vendors, including product demonstration and testing. We provided a recommendation for contract award and deployed the new system. In addition, we engaged our in-house environmental professionals for cultural and historical permitting for four of the new towers.
KCP&L’s minimum requirements for the throughput of the microwave system was 350 Mbps to accommodate the bandwidth required to support future-state high-throughput applications at each site. To accomplish this, we used frequency stacking to coordinate multiple frequency pairs per path, requiring unique design of the radio system, tower loading and structural capacity, and required equipment, as well as more detailed coordination with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the radio vendor.
We began fast-tracking design in 2016, with the procurement and construction contract following separately in 2017 once the solution was suitably developed. This approach allowed us to deliver on time against the June 2018 in-service date and enabled KCP&L to meet its regulatory reliability standards. Accommodating this approach required close coordination for cutover, especially at sites where we were replacing entire systems. Outages were scheduled more than three weeks in advance and areas of conflicting and overlapping work schedules required collaboration between multiple work crews to achieve the demanding installation pace. Contingency plans were put in place to mitigate risk for several scenarios. For example, if weather or other factors impeded our ability to work at one site, we could immediately reassign the same construction crew to another site to maintain timely delivery.
Because of our ability to recognize the complexities of this project, build a flexible schedule that maximized productivity, and our familiarity with KCP&L’s multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network, we achieved substantial completion of all towers by the June 2018 deadline. As a result of this project, KCP&L has a network of microwave radio rings that provide redundant microwave paths out of each site, resulting in more reliable communications network supporting critical electric grid assets.