Case Studies

Burke Electric LLC

A Powerful Industry Expert

Based out of Bellevue, Wash., Burke Electric LLC occupies a niche in hydroelectric work that reflects the liquid surroundings of its location amidst the tangled waterways of the Puget Sound. Founded in 1958 by the father of current managing member Randy Burke, Burke Electric also represents a family tradition that continues with the recent addition of Burke’s own son, who completed his apprenticeship in 2003.

Although Burke Electric is best known for its hydroelectric work on most of the big-name rivers throughout the greater Pacific Northwest area – across the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana – the company maintains a high level of expertise in most areas within the industrial, commercial and power generation sectors, operating through the design-build delivery method, subcontracting and managing projects as a prime contractor since the late 1950s.

Harnessing over a half-decade of experience and innovation, Burke Electric has grown substantially since its beginnings as a local, hometown contractor. Burke Electric now works on industrial, commercial and government projects, servicing both low and high voltage systems (including security, fire alarm and power distribution). The company additionally works in the traditional scopes of underground, substation, and advanced green, wind and solar power generation systems.

A Wide Range of Expertise

Burke Electric’s workforce ranges from 40 to 120 employees, depending on project needs and seasonal work. Approximately 60 percent of the work is from federal sector clients and the remaining is a mix of commercial and industrial projects – including high- and mid-rise office-retail complexes, powerhouse, hydroelectric, underground utility distribution, transmission line, switchyard and substation construction, plus tenant improvements. Burke Electric is renowned as a specialty contractor and the company has a bonding capacity of $10 million per project, allowing it to take on even the most complex electrical designs.

One large commercial tenant improvement project Burke Electric previously completed was for the City of Seattle at the Park 90/5 Crime Lab, contracted by Turner Construction. Burke Electric helped convert a 200,000-square foot warehouse to a mixed-use facility with high-tech capabilities including evidence storage and forensic laboratories. The project, priced at $2 million, was certified LEED Gold.

For the King County Wastewater Treatment Division’s Murray Avenue Pump Station, Burke Electric removed existing electrical and controls, setting up a temporary trailer with a motor control center and a full control panel to allow the facility’s full operation during upgrades, which included new housekeeping curbs, new motor controls, two new VFDs, new HVAC, and new instrumentation were all installed.

At Grand Coulee Dam Burke Electric executed a $6 million contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to build a new 11.95 kV switchyard to service existing 500 kV, 230 kV and 115 kV switchyards. Additionally an oil spill containment system, switchyard steel structures and other metalwork, fiber optic cable, electrical ground mat, cables, conduit and equipment, potential and current transformers, circuit breakers, disconnecting switches, control relay switchboard, modifications to existing controls and relay duplex switchboard were installed. Burke Electric also handled testing and training for the new switchyard equipment.

Burke Electric has been involved in several fish enhancements to dams, hatcheries and more, including fish traps, fish passages, and the first ever constructed Baker Lake Floating Surface Collector. This floating 1,000-ton collector was designed by Puget Sound Energy (PSE), and constructed to contain fish handling equipment to route the downstream migrant fish into a hopper to be trucked around the dam and released. Work consisted of a screening system to separate the fish from the turbine intake penstock water. Electrical work included a 15 kV underground duct bank to 15 kV disconnect on the dam extended to two special 15 kV cables draped underwater to two control buildings on a barge containing the 500 KVA 15 kV to 480 V substations and motor control centers. Several pump motors furnish attraction water for the fish were 100 HP and 30 HP.

Powerhouse, exciter and transformer work is a major sector of Burke Electric’s work. One such project at the Bonneville II Powerhouse involved the design, manufacturing, testing, deliver and installation of GE EX2100 Exciters, power potential transformers and auxiliaries on eight main and two fish units. Existing excitation systems were disassembled and removed, and then new excitation systems, modified control panels and external wiring, cabling, conduits and cable tray additions were installed and tested. Additionally, electrical interconnection of the new transformers to the existing switchyard equipment, bus duct and cable tray supports and concrete work, lead and asbestos abatement, and training took place.

Having completed many industrial construction projects over the years, the above being just a few examples, Burke Electric has worked in a variety of venues that take advantage of hydroelectric power – paper mills, steam plants, refineries, etc. – and has had to repeatedly take into account the domineering waterways of the Pacific Northwest. For its work on the Weyerhaeuser Snoqualmie Mill – located in Snoqualmie, Wash., surrounded by a 100-year flood plain from the Snoqualmie River – Burke Electric had to design a specialized platform to protect the 4160/480V unit substation. The company served as prime contractor on the project.

Burke Electric also takes on many dam design-build projects, such as the Twin Falls Hydroelectric Project for Twin Falls Hydro Company Inc., which involved the following improvements: A 65-foot-long, nine-foot-high collapsible steel diversion weir located at river mile 11.3; an intake structure with a submerged entrance housing fish screens and fish bypass system; two 450-foot long by eight-foot diameter vertical intake shafts conveying water to an underground powerhouse; a 2,740-foot-long access tunnel to the generator room; two 12,000 kW generating units (horizontal Francis turbines); a 3,820-foot-long outlet tunnel; plus a 1.1-mile-long project bypass reach (river mile 10.2 to 11.3).

Hydroelectric Spotlight

In the same region as the Twin Falls undertaking, Burke Electric is currently working as a subcontractor to Barnard Construction on the massive Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project for PSE, which commenced in the fall of 2009. It’s PSE’s oldest facility – built before the turn of the 19th century – and is the world’s first entirely underground power plant. The project will take several years and require hundreds of workers in order to completely revamp the existing power movers.

The underground – therefore discrete – workings of the power plant are important in maintaining the falls as a scenic destination, where locals and tourists alike come to watch the Snoqualmie River tumble over the ridge and crash 270 feet below in plumes of mist. However, difficult-to-access and antiquated facilities pose logistical quandaries for which the expertise of Burke Electric and its seasoned veteran work force are needed to tackle the job head on.

“It was originally built in 15 months with 35 people,” says Burke. “Now it’ll take two years and 200 people to rework and upgrade, requiring new equipment, as well as refurbishing existing equipment.”

The project will require new generators, water-intake structures and penstocks to increase power output by approximately 23 percent. The 100-year flood plain located upstream from the falls should also see some relief (in decreased occurrence and quantity of flooding) – good news for the Weyerhaeuser Mill – thanks to the replacement of existing diversion structures.

Hydroelectric work has taken Burke Electric from its well-serviced four-state area in the upper left hand corner of the U.S. to as far as Massachusetts and Alaska. The company has worked on every dam and powerhouse on the massive Columbia River, from Grand Coulee to Bonneville, as well as most dams on the Snake River.

Generating Growth

Although the company has seen more competition in its field due to the economic downturn, it is on pace to continue with growth in the next decade. With over half-a-century of special experience, Burke Electric outperforms its competitors and often secures work that demands qualifications. “More people are bidding, but they have less experience,” says Burke. Thanks to this, Burke Electric remains secure in its niche and its areas of expertise.

Having constructed several design-build powerhouses that service massive irrigation districts, Burke Electric knows the more demanding nature of these undertakings. There are timelines that must be met or work will be shut down when river water runs dry (low season) and won’t be able to commence again until the next year. A recent deadline was met by Burke Electric just last fall, in mid-September 2010, in Bend, Ore., at the site of a water to wire powerhouse project.

Working on a river brings with it many considerations – both downstream and upstream – which have led to the development of incredibly involved techniques, including complex dam-bypass systems for fish in which Burke Electric has been involved.

By remaining knowledgeable on cutting-edge industry systems and operations, Burke Electric LLC remains an invaluable electrical contractor for industrial, commercial and government customers. As such, Burke continues to be optimistic for the years ahead, and proudly says of the company, “We would like to double our growth in the next five years.”

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in US Builders Review” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


Spring 2018



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.