NV Energy claims a French manufacturing company was largely responsible for six explosions throughout Nevada substations between 2011 and 2017.
In a lawsuit filed July 18, the utility seeks more than $45 million from the manufacturer Trench France and a related Canadian company, Trench Limited.
The companies “negligently manufactured the (equipment),” the lawsuit reads. They “knew or should have known that the Trench Bushings would suddenly explode.”
Representatives for Trench did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2011, two Trench bushings — an insulated structure that transmits power through a barrier such as a transformer or circuit breaker — exploded at NV Energy substations near Las Vegas. In 2014, another Trench bushing failed. In October 2015, NV Energy alleged, a Trench bushing suddenly exploded at a generating station near Primm. Three more explosions followed in substations near Las Vegas between August 2016 and May 2017.
NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said there were no injuries from the explosions.
In August 2016, Trench recommended NV Energy replace its bushings, and the utility began removing the hazardous equipment the following October. The utility is set to finish replacing nearly 800 bushings by the summer of next year, at an estimated cost of nearly $36 million.
The utility alleges that Trench knew, or should have known, that the bushings were “dangerously exploding at a rate far in excess of its competitors’ bushings, especially in hot climates like Nevada” since 2010 — five years before the first explosion at an NV Energy substation.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers “included failures of Trench Bushings as topic at a conference in 2010,” and they were discussed at another conference in 2012, according to the lawsuit.
“Since at least 1995, key insulating components of Trench Bushings were negligently and defectively manufactured by both Trench defendants,” according to the lawsuit. “Paper layers were cut crudely … (and) defendants measured and inserted aluminum layers by hand.”