MODERNIZATION OF BELMONT’S ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION INFRASTRUCTURE UNDERWAY
With the recent construction of a new 60 MW substation at Blair Pond and a new 115 kV transmission line from Alewife, Belmont Light has significantly increased the electricity capacity and power quality for the Town of Belmont.
The final step to creating the next generation’s most cost effective and efficient distribution system for Belmont consumers is the completion of a ten-year plan to upgrade and modernize the town-wide distribution system and decommission the town’s three older substations which will be rendered obsolete.
The upgrade and modernization of Belmont’s current distribution infrastructure to higher 13.8 kV circuits will include; replacing wire, replacing transformers, replacing some utility poles, replacing other equipment as needed. Completion of Phase One of this project will allow the town to decommission the substation at Concord Avenue and the completion of Phase Two will result in the decommissioning of the substations at Oakley Road and Hittinger Street.
UPDATE – January 2019
Ductbank work has been completed on Bright Road and Washington Street, although final paving will take place in early Spring 2019. Completion of this phase of Belmont’s “Next Generation Electricity Distribution Plan” will allow Belmont Light to enter the lengthy final phase of replacing and pulling cable, replacing equipment and other necessary steps throughout the town to complete the transformation of our distribution system for the next generation.
115 KV SUBSTATION & TRANSMISSION LINE PROJECT
On December 15, 2016, Belmont Light officially transferred ownership of a newly constructed 115kV Transmission Line to Eversource, and in doing so effectively closed out the development phase of a new electricity distribution system that will serve Belmont consumers for decades to come.
The new 115kV Transmission Line runs from the Alewife electric gird in Cambridge to feed a new 60 megawatt substation at Blair Pond in Belmont that will provide a newer, more reliable and better quality electric service for all Belmont users. The new electric distribution system is the result of several years of analysis, planning, design and construction aimed at combating Belmont’s growing concerns in the areas of capacity, age of infrastructure, and reliability of its electric delivery system.
In assessing these inevitable limitations of its aging distribution system, in 2012 Belmont Town Meeting approved $53.7 million in new bonding capacity to address these concerns and develop a solution. With the support of Town Meeting, Belmont Light worked with industry experts, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, the Independent Service Operators of New England, Belmont Town Officials and Eversource, the owner of Belmont’s electric supply interconnection at Alewife, to develop the most efficient and cost effective solution for Belmont’s ratepayers. The result of this collaboration and analysis includes not only the new 60 megawatt Blair Pond Substation and 115kV Transmission Line, but also a Joint Development Agreement signed between Belmont Light and Eversource which transfers ownership of the 115kV Transmission Line to Eversource after construction.
With the agreement to transfer ownership of the new transmission line to Eversource, Belmont’s construction costs for the overall project, after reimbursement from Eversource, dropped by $28 million. As a result, Belmont’s total cost for the Blair Pond Substation and Transmission Line project, anticipated to be $53.7 million, actually closed out at $26.1 million, a $27.6 million savings for Belmont ratepayers. A corresponding rate increase associated with the cost of this project that was originally anticipated to be approximately 14% for Belmont Light customers is instead 6%, an increase that has already been factored into rates.
With the new 115kV transmission line energized, its ownership transferred, and all interconnections at the Blair Pond Substation made, all major phases of the Blair Pond Substation and Transmission Line project have been completed. Upon completion of the final distribution phase of the project within Belmont, the new Substation will begin to provide the next generation of electricity distribution for all Belmont electric users beginning this spring.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Belmont Light is one of just 41 municipal light departments in Massachusetts. Being a community-owned utility, we are able to provide more personal customer service, retain a workforce dedicated solely to the maintenance and repair of Belmont’s power needs, and preserve flexibility to positively impact our customers’ electric rates.
The ability to continue providing this unique value to Belmont’s electric customers became severely jeopardized over recent years due to mounting system capacity issues, an aging infrastructure, and corresponding power quality issues. The new Blair Pond Substation and the 115 kV transmission line that will interconnect the new substation at Alewife in Cambridge is the solution that will provide long-term stability to Belmont’s electric needs for decades to come.
SMART GRID PROJECT
Belmont Light completed the modernization of its infrastructure through its advanced metering project in 2016. The project entailed the installation of state-of-the art hardware, software, and communications networking equipment that provides opportunities for energy savings, operations efficiency, enhanced customer service, and reduced energy costs. The “smart” electric meters installed as part of the project communicate via a highly secure, town-wide, 900-MHz private network. Data collected from these meters is made available to customers through Belmont Light’s web portal, SmartHub, making it easy to analyze and manage their electricity usage.
The Smart Grid is a physical and communications link between your home or business and the utility infrastructure that delivers your energy. Smart meters measure your electricity use in defined increments daily as opposed to the traditional process of taking single monthly reads. The data collected from smart meters permit advanced visibility of customer consumption patterns, enabling customers to better manage their energy use. Smart meters also act as sensors and remote controllers that help the utility gauge what’s happening on the system and will allow Belmont Light to locate specific problems faster to avoid outages. Distribution automation will allow Belmont Light to remotely make any necessary flow adjustments on the system, facilitate outage management, and improve power quality throughout the system.
The Smart Grid project provides Belmont Light with a better understanding of system demand, congestion, and balancing. The analysis of these data creates opportunities for energy savings and operations efficiencies, ultimately improving electricity rate calculations and your energy costs. Upcoming Smart Grid enabled programs and developing technologies will provide every Belmont customer with the knowledge and tools needed to meet conservation goals, save energy, and reduce electricity bills.