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State OKs $3.65M electrical upgrade in Brattleboro

Green Mountain Power says renovation of substation will boost capacity, reliability

BRATTLEBORO—State regulators have given the go-ahead for a $3.65 million project to boost the capacity, reliability, and flexibility of Brattleboro’s electrical system.

Green Mountain Power has received a state certificate of public good to overhaul its South Brattleboro substation on Cotton Mill Hill.

Construction is scheduled for next year, and administrators say they’ll install a temporary transformer nearby so electrical service isn't disrupted during the nine-month project.

“We’re always looking at ways to make sure we’re providing reliable service to our customers,” Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. “This is an opportunity for us to improve our basic infrastructure in Brattleboro.”

Substations are a critical part of the electrical system, as they receive power from higher-voltage lines and transform it into a voltage that can be sent along local distribution lines. But Green Mountain Power says its South Brattleboro facility features two transformers that are outdated: One is 54 years old, and the other is 28 years old.

The utility’s plan is to replace those with one new, larger transformer. In issuing a Sept. 12 permit for the project, the state Public Service Board found that “the replacement transformer will improve overall system strength in the areas served by the substation.”

While Green Mountain Power doesn’t see a near-term, specific need for more electrical capacity in the area, the new substation will be designed to “accommodate future growth, as we do need to make sure it is sized appropriately for the long-term,” Schnure said.

More importantly, though, the project “is really needed for reliability in that area,” Schnure said.

Flexibility is a key attribute. When there is an outage in the area, the utility can reroute power to serve the affected area. A new, larger, and more reliable South Brattleboro substation “will give us more flexibility in that way,” Schnure said.

State documents say Green Mountain Power will bring a portable substation to Brattleboro to provide electrical service during construction, which is expected to run from April to December of next year. The temporary infrastructure will be installed about 300 feet away from the existing substation and will be removed when the project is over, officials wrote.

The substation is located in an area that hosts a mix of commercial and residential properties. It is situated across the road from the Cotton Mill complex, a 145,000-square-foot former industrial building that hosts a variety of small businesses, nonprofits, and artists.

In a letter to the town earlier this year, an attorney representing Green Mountain Power stressed that the substation project won’t require Green Mountain Power to expand its footprint in the area. The upgrade “will require a fence adjustment but will be located on the same parcel,” attorney Morris Silver wrote.

“The reuse of the existing location should assure that the project does not result in adverse impact on aesthetics or the scenic and natural beauty of the area,” Silver wrote.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #380 (Wednesday, October 26, 2016). This story appeared on page A3.

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