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O&R: $83M in More Electric System Undergrounding, Automation Since Sandy Results in a Stronger Power System, Fewer Outages and Faster Restoration Times

Over the past 10 years since Superstorm Sandy ravaged the communities that Orange & Rockland (O&R) serves and knocked out power to more than 80 percent of its customers, O&R has initiated a broad set of 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 O&R performed on restoration times for Superstorm Sandy and subsequent major storms, including August 2020’s Isaias, O&R estimates that the work completed through those programs has improved electric service restoration times by at least 30 percent.

O&R 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 those programs – the storm hardening initiative – O&R has invested approximately $83.6 million over the past 10 years to make its energy systems more storm resilient.

How?

O&R 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.

Underground Electric Storm Hardening Projects

The most visible of these undergrounding projects to harden the electric system at strategic locations and promote electric service resilience is the 2020 Lake DeForest Causeway project in Clarkstown. O&R buried the overhead electric lines that ran along the road that crosses Lake DeForest between Congers and New City, resulting in substantial improvement to electric service reliability for 2,000 customers. Here are three examples of other underground projects O&R has completed over the past year:

  • West Nyack - A $600,000 electric service upgrade, installing 2,000 feet of underground cable replacing existing overhead lines along Route 59.
  • Monroe - A $1.3 million electric service upgrade, installing 10,000 feet of underground cable for a new circuit to feed the Monroe area.
  • Middletown - A $150,000 electric service upgrade, installing 1,000 feet of underground cable for a new circuit to feed the Town of Wallkill area.

Electric System Automation Storm Hardening Project

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, O&R has spent $53.2 million on electric system automation.

Overhead Electric Storm Hardening Projects

One of the first of hundreds of post-Sandy efforts employing tree-resistant cable was a $750,000 O&R project to significantly improve the resilience of the electrical feed to Jackie Jones Tower in Stony Point. That’s a critical hub for emergency services radio and cell communication throughout Rockland County.

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

Here are six examples of resilience projects to upgrade service and install heavier-duty overhead cable that were completed over the past year:

  • Suffern - A $700,000 electric service upgrade, upgrading 3,800 feet of existing overhead wire with higher capacity, tree-resistant cable on Spook Rock Road.
  • New City - A $400,000 electric service upgrade, replacing 2,600 feet of existing overhead wire with tree-resistant cable on North Main Street.
  • New City - A $400,000 electric service upgrade, upgrading 1,800 feet of existing overhead wire with higher capacity, tree-resistant cable Addison Boyce Road.
  • New Square - A $400,000 electric service upgrade, upgrading 1,300 feet of existing overhead wire with higher capacity, heavier-duty cable on Roosevelt Avenue.
  • Stony Point - A $200,000 electric service upgrade, upgrading voltage and replacing 2,000 feet of existing overhead wire with higher capacity, heavier-duty cable on Wayne Avenue.
  • Tuxedo Park - A $1.7 million electric service upgrade, upgrading 10,000 feet of existing overhead wire with higher capacity, tree-resistant cable along East Lake Road and Crow’s Nest Road.

Capital Electric Reliability and Maintenance Projects

In addition to the storm-hardening projects, O&R has invested nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years on capital electric reliability and maintenance projects.

One of O&R’s largest electric service reliability investments since Superstorm Sandy is in Port Jervis where the company commissioned a new, $38.2- million electric substation designed to improve electric service reliability in the city and surrounding area.

Over the past 10 years, O&R also has built two new $18-million substations --- one in Goshen and the other in Deer Park. During that time period, O&R also made $17 million in upgrades to its transmission substation in Ramapo and $7.5 million in upgrades to its New Hempstead substation. Click here to see more about the Ramapo substation project.

Vegetation Management Storm Hardening Projects

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

For years, O&R 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 O&R electrical equipment during Superstorm Sandy, O&R 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 O&R’s right-of-way (ROW). To help address the damage created by dead or dying trees that fall into O&R lines from outside the right-of-way, O&R’s certified arborists have intensified their long-standing efforts to examine the community’s tree stock adjacent to O&R 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 O&R history, O&R has replaced conventional electric meters with smart meters at more than 300,000 O&R electric and natural gas customers’ premises. The $98.5 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 O&R system.

Emergency Stand-By Contractor Agreements

To get more overhead line technicians on the job more quickly during a major storm event, O&R has 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 O&R’s overhead line technician field crews. This 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 O&R’s service area get to work as quickly as possible, O&R has obtained access to a fleet of nearly 100 new utility trucks that have been secured by O&R’s sister utility company, Con Edison.

Pre-staged trucks loaded with repair equipment speed up service restoration response 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

Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. (Con Edison) (NYSE: ED), one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies. O&R is a regulated electric and gas utility that serves approximately 233,000 electric customers and 134,000 natural gas customers in New York. For additional information about O&R, please visit O&R’s Web site at www.oru.com.

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