Part of a $70 million Atlantic City Electric project to provide more electricity to Avalon and Stone Harbor includes design changes taking place across South Jersey.
The project’s high-voltage-carrying transmission poles will be made of steel instead of wood, hoisting wires that stretch across a windswept causeway and onto the barrier islands.
Steel for transmission poles is not a new concept, since the metal is stronger than wood.
But they are appearing with more frequency following Hurricane Sandy and some major wind and snowstorms in recent years, said Daniel Woods, an Atlantic City Electric senior engineer and project manager.
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“We want to increase the reliability of our transmission system — it’s basically the backbone of our whole system,” he said.
Transmission wires carry higher voltages that go to substations. There, power is reduced and sent on to homes and businesses.
So when transmission lines go down, they can create major headaches, because more people rely on them.
The replacement, which is scheduled to start in mid-October and be finished by May, is part of equipping Seven Mile Island and adjacent communities for more electricity to meet growing demand, Atlantic City Electric said.
The Mays Landing-based utility is reconfiguring a 23-kilovolt substation by 61st Street in Avalon to accommodate load growth. The new substation and the transmission lines will be 69 kilovolts, Woods said.
The project was met with approval in Avalon, both by the borough and the Avalon Land and Homeowners Association, borough Administrator Scott Wahl said.
“Anything you can do to improve the reliability in service in town, we’d be in favor of,” Wahl said.
Avalon was dealt a particular blow from back-to-back snowstorms in February 2010, when some sections were without power for five or six days, he said.
Stefanie Brand, director of the state Division of Rate Counsel that represents utility customers, said that as with other utility projects, A.C. Electric will have to justify the expenses, which they can seek to recover in a future rate case.
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Woods said the steel poles are comparable in price with the wooden ones, mostly because of current steel prices. The Dow Jones U.S. Iron and Steel Index indicates prices are the lowest they have been since the end of the recession and about 3.5 times lower than in early 2008.
Transmission poles — which are taller than distribution poles — now can cost $4,000 to $8,000, Woods said.
The estimated life of the steel is about 80 to 100 years, about double that of wood, he said.
The transmission poles will run along the Stone Harbor Boulevard causeway, going into Stone Harbor and then to Avalon’s Peermont Substation by 61st Street.
Transmissions lines across Sea Isle City Boulevard were completed last year and used similar steel poles.