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Home builders advised of transformer supply shortages

Row of new homes under construction in a far west Bexar County subdivision
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Row of new homes under construction in a far west Bexar County subdivision

The nation's major electric utility companies report a shortage of transformers due to supply chain issues, and that includes CPS Energy and New Braunfels Utilities.

Transformer manufacturers have been plagued by the pandemic, staffing and material shortages.

CPS Energy for years has favored underground power lines with pad mount transformers — those familiar metal green boxes seen in San Antonio yards.

One transformer is needed for every four homes. They transform high voltage in the lines to the low voltage used in homes.

Maria Garcia is vice president of supply chain at CPS Energy. She said to keep up with demand for transformers from home developers, they have increased their list of potential suppliers. They've also asked home developers to weigh transformer options.

"There's a number of transformers. There's overhead, there's pad mount. So is there an opportunity where maybe developers looking for underground, which would be the pad mount transformer, is there an opportunity to now switch it to overhead," Garcia said.

Many developers favor the pad mount transformers because power lines are not seen and therefore a more eye pleasing design.

Garcia is especially worried about a hurricane season that could take out a lot of transformers, making supply even more difficult.

"If a bad hurricane comes in, it's going to wipe out the inventory and then that's going to bring us a few more pain points, if you will."

NBU has advised developers that they build at their own risk right now because of supply chain issues. It has also advised developers to share any electric service delays with potential home buyers.

Garcia's advice for San Antonio homebuilders is to pace their projects to align with the supply chain issues.

The San Antonio Board of Realtors reports overall sales of new and existing homes dropped 10% countywide in June due to rising mortgage rates and inflation. But Garcia said new home construction remains strong, especially in far west Bexar County, which CPS Energy serves.

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