Keeping the lights on

January 7, 2019

NEEDLES — Another new substation is ready to serve increasing demand for electricity in the city of Needles. Situated along Needles Highway, the 40 megawatt capacity facility will serve the city’s growing north end.

The station was dedicated last month in honor of Murl Shaver, noted for his service to the city.

Shaver was actively involved in city government for many years and was instrumental in the creation of the Needles Public Utility Authority in 1997. He served 11 years on the Board of Public Utilities after serving four years as mayor.

“Along with the rest of the upgrades in infrastructure this is very important,” said Shaver in a telephone interview a few days after the dedication ceremonies. “A lot of work and concern has gone into improving the electric system.”

Shaver remembered the state of that system when he was first elected mayor in 1996. “Every time we had a storm or a bird landed on the line the lights went out,” he said, chuckling. “It needed a lot of work done.”

One of the largest concerns was obtaining a second source of electricity to feed the city. In the 90s, Shaver recalled, a single line owned by Nevada Power brought electricity into the city. These days the city obtains electricity from Western Area Power Administration: one of four entities set up within the U.S. Department of Energy to deliver primarily hydroelectric power. The Nevada line is a backup.

The city has an allotment of hydroelectric, which has served to keep rates low compared to other areas. As demand increases with new industry and the population growth anticipated to follow, the city has sought out additional supply.

A new Network Integrated Transmission Service agreement with WAPA prepares the city to receive 100 megawatts of electricity. That required expanding capability of the power distribution network within Needles, of which the Murl Shaver substation is a part, along with the Bill Yoney and Eagle Pass substations and another planned for the south end of town.

“It’s important to have stable, reliable electricity,” Shaver said. “The investment from the marijuana growing and research establishments paid money up front for improvements in our system in order to supply them. That’s enabled us to upgrade infrastructure tremendously. We can actually now handle more than (current) demand. That offers opportunities for other people in the future, whoever they may be, that we hope to entice to come here and join us.

“In the past the system was so outdated and worn down we didn’t have the capacity to increase, nor was it reliable,” Shaver concluded. “This substation, along with all the other improvements made, is vital. I’m very honored they named it after me.”

Shaver’s career began with the Needles Police Department, where he served as a reserve officer from 1960 to 1967; then a regular officer moving through the ranks of detective, sergeant and lieutenant, until 1977. After a stint as chief deputy sheriff of Mohave County he returned to the Needles PD in 1984.

When the city contracted with the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department in 1989 Shaver switched to their uniform. He retired in 1995 as lieutenant, second in command at Needles’ Colorado River Station.

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