Little Tor Substation FAQ
Orange and Rockland Utilities plans to invest approximately $20.5 million to build a new electric substation at the southwestern corner of South Mountain Road and North Little Tor Road in New City to address potentially serious electric service reliability issues in that area. The substation will occupy less than one acre of a 10.2-acre parcel owned by O&R.
The substation is needed to maintain electric service reliability in this area.
A high potential for serious electric reliability issues exists now in this area.
The infrastructure now serving the northern New City area has reached its capacity.
Over the past 10 years, the electric demand in this area has grown 13 percent, and it will continue to grow. That increased demand for electricity exceeds the capacity of the equipment, and, as a result, design standards that O&R applies for reliable operation are not being met.
Maintaining reliable electric service is this project’s number one goal.
The proposed new substation would provide sufficient infrastructure capacity to assume the loads that New Hempstead, Congers, West Haverstraw and the mobile substation are now straining to carry for northern New City.
Once the new substation is in place, all four permanent substations — Little Tor, New Hempstead, Congers and West Haverstraw — also would work in concert to provide back up to each other in the event of an outage or other emergency.
And the mobile substation would then be removed from the site and available for emergency deployment when needed as a temporary back up elsewhere in the O&R system.
To build the substation, O&R requires Clarkstown Planning Board approval.
That approval also includes a review by approximately a dozen boards and agencies including: the Town Fire Inspectors, the Town Highway Department, the Town Engineer and the other relevant town of Clarkstown departments.
Rockland County Highway Department and the Rockland County Drainage Agency must also approve the plan.
O&R also requires a Special Use Permit from the Clarkstown Zoning Board of Appeals. That permit has been granted.
For the past 10 years, O&R has participated in a comprehensive examination of its plans by state, county and town planning officials, public safety and legal authorities, independent subject matter experts and the community through more than 20 public meetings and an extensive public comment period.
The Clarkstown Planning Board has adopted the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which is essentially a record that details:
- O&R’s substation construction and operations plans
- Questions that were raised about the plans by the Clarkstown Planning Board, its consultants and the general public
- O&R’s answers to those questions, and
- the Clarkstown Planning Board’s decisions regarding those questions.
Based on reports from two sets of consultants — one representing O&R and one representing the Clarkstown Planning Board, the Clarkstown Planning Board decided that there will be no significant impact to property values as a result of the project. Further, the Clarkstown Planning Board found that there will be no significant adverse environmental impacts associated with the electro-magnetic fields in the area resulting for this project.
The Clarkstown Planning Board agreed that there are sufficient fire control measures and response protocols in place for the proposed project. Further, the Clarkstown Planning Board accepted O&R’s plans for addressing a possible oil spill and storm water runoff as sufficient.
And, the Clarkstown Planning Board held that O&R’s screening, traffic and lighting plans were adequate.
The Clarkstown Planning Board directed O&R to install acoustical barriers around the natural gas regulator on the substation property to reduce sound levels to meet noise code requirements.
O&R’s proposal continues its way through the approval process, which includes review by approximately a dozen boards and agencies, including the Clarkstown Architecture and Historic Review Board, the Clarkstown Antenna Advisor Board, the Rockland County Health Department and the Rockland County Drainage Agency. Some of those reviews cannot begin until the Clarkstown Planning Board approves the project’s site plan.
The timeline for such a decision is set by the Clarkstown Planning Board based on a number of factors, including favorable review by some of the previously mentioned boards and agencies.
The location was chosen because, of the sites examined, this location offered the best opportunity to overcome electric service reliability issues.
The station location was selected based upon the proximity to the customers to be served, proximity to existing transmission facilities and available property.
The existing parcel contains electric transmission lines, communication facilities as well as a natural gas regulator station.
The substation is designed to occupy less than one acre. The facility is to be centered on a 10.2 acre parcel owned by O&R, which has maintained high voltage electric equipment, including the Gibbons substation for 57 years, on this property since 1926.
The original O&R property at this location was 1.27 acres and dates back to the 1920s. The additional 8.93- acre contiguous parcel was acquired by the company in 2006.
The purchased property had been the home of a colony of dilapidated single family cottages. The Rockland County Department of Health deemed the housing uninhabitable. After O&R completed the purchase of the property, O&R arranged for the cottages to be razed and the site cleaned up.
A detailed regression model was performed utilizing residential home data from the area surrounding the New Hempstead and Congers substations.
Both the Clarkstown Planning Board’s real estate consultant and O&R’s real estate consultant agreed that there would be little or no diminution of property values as a result of this project.
The site has been used for utility purposes predating much of the more recent residential development, including overhead transmission lines and towers, a natural gas regulator, cellular facilities and a previous electrical substation. The Clarkstown Planning Board found that there will be no significant impact to the property values resulting from the project.
This proposed facility is an entry point to bring more electricity into the area from the existing transmission lines that have run through the property for decades. This is not a power plant. The proposed substation does not generate electricity.
The substation takes high voltage electricity from the 138kV overhead transmission wire that has run through this area for decades and converts that electricity to lower voltage.
The substation equipment then channels that lower voltage electricity into the electric distribution system that runs up and down the street to deliver the electricity to homes and businesses.
The fence line of the proposed facility is nearly 250 feet from South Mountain Road and 230 feet from Little Tor Road.
The two, H-shaped transmission structures inside the facility will be 68 feet high. A 16.5 foot lightning arrestor that resembles a flag pole will be attached to that structure. The substation will contain two 50 MVA transformers and one 25 MVA transformer.
The substation is 195 ft. by 211 ft. with a 430 ft access driveway. The substation will be built in compliance with the National Electric Safety Code.
A detailed computer model and magnetic field calculations were used to determine both existing electro-magnetic field associated with the substation and existing overhead transmission lines.
These levels vary depending on location but in all cases the readings are well below the standard set the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) of 200mG.
The Clarkstown Planning Board ordered supplemental studies prepared by outside consultants to further address the EMF question as well.
Based on the information presented, the Clarkstown Planning Board found that there will be no significant changes in EMFs at the property lines and therefore no significant adverse environmental impacts associated with the electro-magnetic field levels.
O&R’s specific fire prevention and control measures were reviewed by former and present Clarkstown Chief Fire Safety Inspectors who have determined that these measures are acceptable and adequate.
A new hydrant will be installed at the corner of the property at the intersection of South Mountain Road and North Little Tor Road.
The substation will be remotely monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year from the O&R Central Control Center. The facility is equipped with alarm systems that monitor the equipment and security cameras. O&R has a response protocol for the facility.
The Clarkstown Planning Board found that there are sufficient fire control measures and response protocols in place for the proposed project.
The substation design incorporates a multi-level containment system to prevent any uncontrolled discharge of oil from the site.
- In the case of an oil spill, the initial protective measure is a sensor that monitors transformer oil level. If a failure of the transformer tank occurs, the sensor is triggered and O&R personnel respond to the site.
- The second level of protection is a concrete containment area built around each transformer. These containment areas have concrete walls, a selectively permeable material lining the bottom and are backfilled with stone. The selectively permeable containment materials allow water to pass under normal conditions but solidify to seal the containment area when it comes in contact with oil, or other hydrocarbons, to contain the oil.
- The third level of protection includes the entire substation yard backfilled with stone. That entire area will be enclosed by an 8.25-inch raised concrete curb.
O&R also has analyzed the impact of the storm-water runoff that would occur after the completion of the proposed project.
To address that issue, O&R proposes to construct a storm water management system that has been designed in accordance NYSDEC requirements.
In order to control storm-water quantity and quality, an on-site, bio-retention area, and a dry-detention basin, are proposed for the east side of the base of the substation. Also proposed is the installation of a dry swale along the access driveway and rain gardens at the entrance to the site.
The substation will be lit only internally and with limited illumination only for emergency repair or maintenance work. Otherwise, the site will remain dark at night.
The property will be gated and fenced and high-tech systems will be installed to provide security to the structure. Regular maintenance visits by O&R personnel take place during daylight hours.
O&R plans to install high-tech, low-sound equipment in the substation, and acoustical barriers to mitigate the sound levels from the gas regulator on the property.
As part of this project, the natural gas regulator station now on the property about 50 feet south of South Mountain Road will be upgraded with state-of the-art equipment, including sound-attenuating walls, and moved another 100 feet further away from South Mountain Road, deeper into the property. The cost of that project is $800,000.