DINUBA – Local construction projects are feeling the impact of a national issue as a glitch in the supply chain is delaying the opening of the new Dinuba High School.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — coupled with other international crises — are still rippling across many industries, causing construction and development projects to take longer than initially planned. Joe Hernandez, Dinuba Unified School District (DUSD) superintendent, said this is impacting the district’s ability to acquire electrical switchgear, switchboards and transformers.
“There could be at least a year’s delay in getting the needed electronic products that are needed for our school,” Hernandez said. “With this in mind, we are looking at a January 2025 opening for our new Dinuba High.”
DUSD initially hoped to open the new high school by the fall semester of 2024, and construction has been moving along quickly over the last year. With the delay in electrical equipment, the transition to the new high school — and the move of the junior high to the old high school campus — will not happen as soon as planned.
The electrical equipment needed by DUSD — switchgear, switchboards and transformers — are used to safely transfer electricity from its source and distribute it across a facility. The equipment is necessary for the operation of all electronics within the new high school campus.
Hernandez said the supply chain largely has to do with increased demand and limited supplies, along with a global shortage of the raw materials used to produce the electrical products.
Electrical switchgear is the centralized collection of circuit protection devices that distribute power across a large facility. Switchboards are a component of that distribution system that further divide electrical power to smaller circuits. Transformers are the components that take the high-voltage electricity distributed across a power grid and decrease that voltage to lower levels used by the end consumer.
Reports from utility and energy companies published over the last year have signaled that a short supply of large power transformers, called LPTs, could put much of the electrical grid in the United States at risk, because transformers are susceptible to typical wear and tear, especially in cases of extreme weather.
An August report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) about this problem found that LPTs, along with other, smaller transformers, are sparsely manufactured domestically. Additionally, domestic manufacturing of the steel used in transformers is very low, the report said.
While the GAO report focused on LPTs and a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Energy on how to better protect the nation’s electrical grids, the findings apply to the situation in Dinuba as well.
According to the GAO report, supply chain constraints have impacted the manufacture of transformers of all types. These constraints involve manufacturing lead times, shortages of materials, components and labor, issues with manufacturing capacity and competition with foreign manufacturers.
With these challenges, contractors have been encouraged to order their electrical equipment at least six months to a year in advance. Other development, both commercial and residential, could also be impacted by these issues.