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The approximate location of the new DTE substation in Ferndale, on Hilton Road near the railroad tracks.

Those of us who live in Ferndale are no strangers to aggravating summertime power outages. In fact, there was one earlier this week — more on that below. More recently, you may have noticed the presence of utility trucks and bare utility poles and other equipment stacked along certain streets waiting to be installed. Now we know why.

DTE Energy announced this week that it’s spending $76 million to boost electrical reliability for more than 30,000 customers in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Troy. The Detroit-based utility says it’s part of an effort that will see it upgrade more than half of its energy grid by 2020. The capacity upgrades will also support the eventual redevelopment of the Michigan State Fairgrounds, which has been mostly abandoned since 2010.

The project includes construction of two new substations — one in Troy and the other at 1550 Hilton Road just south of East Nine Mile in Ferndale. Both should be operational by June 2017, the utility said.


Upgrades to power lines and the new substation are intended to help better isolate trouble spots and re-route around damaged areas.

“This will reduce the length of power outages so DTE can get customers’ lives back to normal more quickly following outages,” Heather Rivard, DTE’s vice president of Distribution Operations, said in the release.

DTE first announced in 2014 that it planned to build a new substation in Ferndale to meet the city’s demand for power and improve reliability.

DTE spokeswoman Lisa Bolla said the new Ferndale substation will be located at 1550 Hilton Road, just south of 9 Mile and east of the railroad tracks, on land that was formerly privately owned.

“The delay occurred because ‘below grade’ construction work (i.e., digging and installation of conduit and underground power lines) required more time than we initially anticipated,” Bolla wrote in an email. “To build a substation, it’s necessary for DTE to install underground power lines. The purpose of these power lines is to connect the new substation with the existing electrical system.

“With this particular parcel of land, the process of installing these underground lines without disturbing other infrastructure or existing structures was complex. So, design and construction took longer than we originally planned.”

New utility poles await installation in Ferndale.
New utility poles await installation in Ferndale.

Meanwhile, Bolla confirmed that there was another blackout Monday night in Ferndale that affected about 1,000 customers. Based on my observation, while driving home from running errands, the outage was confined to the east side of Woodward Avenue, bounded by Eight Mile and Hilton. I’m not sure how far north it spread.

Service was interrupted around 8:30 p.m. and was restored around 11 p.m., Bolla said.

We also received an automated phone call Tuesday from DTE saying we might be experiencing another outage due to “equipment failure.” Our service was not affected, but it’s a peek into the energy supply shortcomings plaguing Ferndale.

Ferndale has suffered several multi-day outages in recent years, and at least one blackout or brownout in each of every summer going back years. In 2011, 6,000 customers went without power for several days.