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Powering up: PSEG calls for Island substation

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Steve Marron, supervisor of distribution planning for PSEG, made a proposal to the Town Board Tuesday for a substation off Route 114 next to the Historical Society.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Steve Marron, supervisor of distribution planning for PSEG, made a proposal to the Town Board Tuesday for a substation off Route 114 next to the Historical Society.

PSEG representatives made a strong pitch to the Town Board Tuesday to secure permission to build an electrical substation on town-owned property.

The preferred site is where the old highway barn once was, just north of the Historical Society’s Havens House off Route 114.

The power company that manages Long Island’s electricity would need about an acre of the 4.1-acre parcel, said Steve Marron, supervisor of distribution planning for PSEG.

The company would negotiate with the town for a deal to lease or purchase the acre or so of land and have easements for vehicle access and to run cables back from Route 114, PSEG representatives said.

Drilling another conduit under the bay for a second cable from the North Fork was another option to ensure reliability of electricity to the Island, but Mr. Marron disparaged that idea in light of the disaster of a $9 million LIPA scheme that was abandoned last autumn.

In November 2012, one of two distribution cables coming from the North Fork failed. The remaining cable and one from the South Fork have adequate capacity to provide electricity to the Island under normal conditions, Mr. Marron said.

But in the case of a severe storm, for example, the Island could be in danger of losing power.

According to Bob Parkinson, a project manager for PSEG, 13 portable generators are coming back to the Island “as early as next week” as a backup power sources for the summer months.

A substation is “a long term solution for potential failures of the remaining cables,” Mr. Marron said.

Electrical substations take high voltage and converts it to lower voltage to be distributed to residents and businesses. Currently, power is distributed from substations in Southold and Bridgehampton that then comes to the Island via under water cable. It then travels underground following Route 114. The two distribution cables meet at on the highway at the old highway barn site.

The plan is then to tap those cables and run the power back to the substation where it can be converted to lower voltage and distributed to Island residences.

The town-owned parcel is an ideal and inexpensive spot to build a substation, Mr. Marron said, since tapping a distribution cable and running a line to a substation costs anywhere from $5 to $7 million a mile.

Building the substation at the old highway barn site will cost up to $12 million, which will be paid by all Long Island ratepayers.

Mr. Marron described the proposed facility as “benign,” less than 30 feet tall, fenced and buffered by shrubbery so it won’t be seen or heard from the road. A complete environmental survey and review would be done according to state law that could take up to six months, Mr. Marron said.

No work would be done in the summer months, so ideally clearing and construction could begin in September and finish in May. If the town approves, work wouldn’t begin until September 2015 at the earliest.

The board questioned the PSEG representative on safety and environmental concerns, with Councilman Ed Brown asking about litigation from Long Island residents who live near substations claiming negative impacts to their neighborhoods.

Mr. Marron said some substations were as close as 50 feet from houses and he was unaware of any litigation against the power company. Board members were invited to tour a substation in Jamesport.