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Since Sandy – Rockland Electric Company: $58M in More Electric System Hardening, Undergrounding, Automation Results in a Stronger Power System, Fewer Outages

Over the past 10 years since Superstorm Sandy ravaged the communities that Rockland Electric Company serves and knocked out power to over 80 percent of its customers, Rockland Electric Company has initiated a broad set of resilience programs designed to reduce the number, scope, damage, and duration of power outages caused by major storms.

Click here to see the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Based on a comparative analysis Rockland Electric Company performed on restoration times for Superstorm Sandy and subsequent major storms, including August 2020’s Isaias,

Rockland Electric Company estimates that the work completed through those programs has improved electric service restoration times by at least 30 percent. Rockland Electric Company President and CEO Robert Sanchez said, “Strategic undergrounding of overhead electric wires and continued automation of the electric system are key elements in improving system performance and resiliency in major storm events. The results from those programs are impressive and we plan to build on these successes with further improvement in the future.”

Through one of the company’s resilience programs – the storm hardening initiative – Rockland Electric Company invested approximately $58 million over the past 10 years to make its electric system more storm resistant.

How?

Rockland Electric Company built additional electric circuits, automated select circuits, buried overhead lines at strategic locations, enhanced overhead systems with stronger wire and poles and expanded tree-trimming clearances at critical service locations.

Click here to see how tree-resistant cable can reduce overhead electric outages.

Underground Electric Storm Hardening Projects

The largest of these undergrounding projects to harden the electric system at strategic locations and promote electric service resilience is the $28-million project that buried 3.2 miles of overhead transmission line from Old Tappan through Norwood to Closter. That project improved electric service reliability for 14,000 Rockland Electric customers in Old Tappan, Norwood, Northvale, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, Harrington Park, Alpine, Haworth and Rockleigh.

Other strategic undergrounding storm hardening projects were constructed for the benefit of 12,000 customers in Allendale, Ramsey and Wyckoff. More storm hardening work was performed in Ringwood, Oakland, Harrington Park, Mahwah, Franklin Lakes and West Milford.

Capital Electric Reliability and Maintenance Projects

In addition to the storm hardening program, more significant electric service reliability resources were added to the Rockland Electric Company system with the construction of a new $20-million substation in Montvale and a $1.6-million substation upgrade in Allendale.

Electric System Automation Storm Hardening Projects

The smart grid integrates state-of-the-art equipment and technology with computer analysis, communications, monitoring, and control to significantly enhance system advances in reliability, efficiency, and overall quality of service. The program’s goal is to remotely isolate a problem on the system to reduce its impact on customers.

There are approximately 1,400 new remote-operated devices at various locations on the company’s electric system that allow for the isolation of electric system problems when they develop and minimize the number of customers affected by individual outages.

Over the past 10 years, Rockland Electric Company has spent $28.6 million on electric system automation.

Vegetation Management Storm Hardening Projects

In Superstorm Sandy’s wake, vegetation management along Rockland Electric Company’s thousands of miles of overhead transmission and distribution lines became more important than ever.

For years, Rockland Electric Company has conducted a cycle tree trimming program that trims trees along its electric distribution system on a three-year cycle and along its overhead electric transmission system on a four-year cycle.

After the widespread system damage caused by tree contact with Rockland Electric Company’s electrical equipment during Superstorm Sandy, Rockland Electric increased its specifications for clearances around the distribution wires for lines coming out of its substations expanding to 10 feet on each side to 15 feet and the clearance over the top of the box went from 15 feet to 20 feet. This change in procedure significantly enhanced the overhead electric system at key locations.

Next year, that expanded specification will be extended to the wires in approximately half of the overhead distribution system, providing another substantial resilience enhancement.

But that tree-trimming, does not adequately address dead, dying, diseased or otherwise damaged trees from outside Rockland electric Company’s right-of-way (ROW). To help address the damage created by dead or dying trees that fall into Rockland Electric’s lines from outside the right-of-way, the company’s certified arborists have intensified their long-standing efforts to examine the community’s tree stock adjacent to Rockland Electric Company’s rights-of-way. That examination assesses the health and stability of those trees on neighboring property, and the risk those trees represent.

After these hazardous trees are identified, O&R’s tree experts develop a plan to prune or remove the threat and meet with the property owner to discuss the future of the tree. With the property owner’s written permission, O&R prunes or removes the tree at no cost to the customer.

Smart Meters

In one of the largest single projects in the company’s history, Rockland Electric Company replaced conventional electric meters with smart meters at more than 73,000 Rockland Electric Company electric customers’ premises. The $13.5 - million smart meter program enables customers’ meters to communicate near-real-time power usage data to the company and the customer. The smart meters also help accelerate storm repairs by pinpointing the location of individual customer electric outages on the company’s electric system.

Emergency Stand-By Contractor Agreements

To get more overhead line technicians on the job more quickly during a major storm event, Rockland Electric Company negotiated contracts with private utility companies to supply utility workers for storm restoration.

These additional private overhead electric line construction contractors can provide trained personnel sufficient to double the size – and more – of the company’s overhead line technician field crews. That arrangement can substantially support more rapid storm recovery.

Emergency Stand-by Contractor Truck Fleet

To make sure contract crews who are flown without their vehicles into Rockland Electric Company’s service area get to work as quickly as possible, the company has obtained access to a fleet of nearly 100 new utility trucks that have been secured by Rockland Electric Company’s sister utility company, Con Edison.

Pre-staged trucks loaded with repair equipment speed up service restoration response time because the companies can eliminate the wait-time created by the contractors driving their own vehicles from distant locations. Con Edison took delivery of 90 trucks this year and has another 30 on order. The trucks, 23,000 sq. ft. of leased warehouse and parking lot space in Pomona and related expenses represent an investment of about $34 million.

Who We Are

Rockland Electric Company is an electric utility that serves 73,000 customers in parts of Bergen, Passaic, and Sussex County in New Jersey. Rockland Electric Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc., which in turn is owned by Consolidated Edison, Inc.

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