In January, CPS Energy received a shipment of transformers. A quarter of them were faulty.

The shipment was rejected despite the electricity provider’s goal to get transformers in developers’ hands as fast as possible.

File: CPS Energy truck

SAN ANTONIO – At the height of an ongoing dearth in transformers bottlenecking real estate development in San Antonio, CPS Energy found itself having to send back a portion of a shipment it received in January due to quality concerns.

“About a quarter of a shipment we received in January from a single manufacturer was rejected for manufacturing concerns,” CPS Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Lewis said during a Feb. 28 meeting with the city’s Municipal Utilities Committee. Lewis did not specify the exact number of transformers that were received or sent back, but noted the shipment was “large.” Additionally, she did not reveal the identity of the manufacturer.

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Because a certain rate of faulty transformers is par for the course, CPS, the city’s municipal electric provider, performs its own quality control checks on transformers it receives. This shipment is noteworthy, however, because it is more than double what Lewis considers to be a typical figure of 10%.

The higher rate of defective products, she noted, was related to labor shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Like many of us, the manufacturer lost employees, and they have new employees who are not as expert and capable. That changes their ability to both produce in a timely fashion and the quality of their production,” she said.

In spite of the shortage, CPS is making every effort to get transformers into developers’ hands as soon as possible.

“The nicest way to say it is, ‘We ain’t bein’ picky right now,’” Lewis said, as long as the transformers pass safety standards.

The defective shipment comes at a critical period for San Antonio’s development community. Global supply chains, still on the ropes since the pandemic, have been hammered by extreme weather events and the war in Ukraine, resulting in protracted wait times for raw materials nationwide.

The current lending environment also makes the timing of the deficient delivery particularly painful.

Currently, 94 ongoing residential developments are in line for some 8,700 transformers. Developers for new subdivisions are being quoted wait times of 18-24 months for a transformer. Three-phase transformers, which are used for commercial developments and larger residential communities, have wait times of 12-18 months.

Read the full story in the San Antonio Business Journal.

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.

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