MPS considers sites for new substation

17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Officials at Maine Public Service Co. will now go back to the drawing board to determine where best to construct a distribution substation.
At a public hearing held last month, the Presque Isle Zoning Board of Appeals nixed the idea of having the substation located at 50 and 52 Academy St. on land that MPS was considering buying.
   “There were only three of the five members of the zoning board there, and they expressed some concern about property values and noise,” said Tom Osgood, director of engineering, system operations, and asset management.
Osgood said MPS is planning to begin a voltage conversion of Presque Isle from 2008-2010 to better serve its customers.
“This is part of an overall companywide comprehensive plan to upgrade all of our facilities to a higher voltage,” he said. “This will allow for new commercial and residential load increases, we’d have better reliability, and it would complete PCB mitigation in the local area.
“The change from 5 to 12.5 kV allows loads to be served nine times farther away from the sub, reduces losses, and provides for future growth in Presque Isle,” said Osgood. “This will improve reliability of electrical service in Presque Isle through circuit upgrades.”
A new substation will serve between 1,750 and 2,500 customers including The Aroostook Medical Center.
“If you lay our transmission system over a street map,” Osgood said, “the transmission line goes right down the bike path, and any of our distribution substations have to be fed by a transmission line, so we want to be somewhere near our transmission facilities, as well as near the load.
“That intersection seemed to be a logical spot for us, and there was a lot available,” he said, “but people had concerns about property values and noise. Strangely enough, the existing substation is just one street over on State Street, and people on that street haven’t had any problems with noise or property values.”
Despite the zoning board’s vote, Osgood said MPS received a letter of support from City Manager Tom Stevens.
“The city manager and the city planner recognize that east of Presque Isle up Academy Street is a targeted growth area because of the hospital and the professional offices, so they want to make sure that the infrastructure and facilities are in place to support that growth,” said Osgood.
Some people have wondered why MPS doesn’t buy some houses on State Street and expand the existing substation.
“We can’t just spend money willy-nilly,” said Osgood, “and there’s no guarantee that those people would be willing to sell.”
Osgood said MPS officials are presently developing a list of contingency sites.
“We do have the option to go back and appeal the decision of the zoning board of appeals,” he said.  “That’s a decision that will be made by senior management. We’re also looking at a couple of other alternative areas, as well. We’ll be talking to landowners, and we’re trying to make sure that wherever we go, we can address the concerns that were raised at that meeting.
“We want to be good neighbors,” said Osgood. “We don’t want to just come in and say, ‘We want to be here, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to get there.’”
The State Street substation has been in existence for 40 years.
“If they’re designed correctly and sized correctly,” Osgood said, “we expect that this one will last even longer.”
Osgood said the “million dollar project” will definitely happen.
“We’ve already ordered equipment,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter where we put the substation … the design and layout will be the same. As long as we can secure a piece of property, by the time construction season starts in May and June, we can still complete the project this year and stick with our timetable.
“We’re trying to design a new electrical infrastructure in Presque Isle so that if any one substation goes down, we can do some simple switching and carry the entire town with the remaining substations,” said Osgood. “That’s also part of the plan that we’re doing here. Something will be built because Presque Isle is one of the major growth areas in our service territory, and the infrastructure is aged.”