Village of Rockville Centre seeks electric upgrades from PSEG

Claims power company has ignored and dismissed concerns


As PSEG Long Island awaits the final plans for a proposed $176 million project to add a 7.3-mile, 138-kilovolt underground transmission line between Garden City and Lynbrook, Rockville Centre officials are urging the power company to address the village’s recommended enhancements to its electric system.

“Despite num-erous attempts over the past several years to raise our concerns about reliability and need for system upgrade, PSEG Long Island has ignored or effectively dismissed our concerns,” said Phil Andreas, superintendent of Rockville Centre’s Electric Department, according to the transcript of a public meeting hosted by the state Department of Public Service on May 30 in Mineola. Andreas added that cost estimates of $50 million to improve the system “seems grossly inflated.”

The village is one of three municipal electric systems on Long Island, serving about 25,000 customers and businesses, including about 30 critical facilities. PSEG provides transmission service for the Long Island Power Authority to the village through three 33,000-volt transmission lines, which supply a majority of Rockville Centre’s energy. The village’s Electric Department owns and operates a small power plant — which burns No. 2 fuel oil and natural gas — that is used during peak summer periods, generating between 10 and 25 percent of the village’s power at those times.

The request came before the most recent outage, on June 29, from midnight to 2 a.m., which affected service to about half of the village’s residents, according to village spokeswoman Julie Scully. It occurred as PSEG was making scheduled improvements to one of its circuits that feeds to Rockville Centre, PSEG spokesman Jeremy Walsh said, adding that the company was in touch with village officials to determine the cause.

Andreas noted 24 major outages in Rockville Centre caused by the LIPA system since 2013, and called on PSEG to conduct a condition assessment of the system’s equipment and structures. Two of the lines, for example, were affected during a snowstorm in March, cutting off power to about 4,330 residential and commercial customers.

“The interruption of multiple lines should not be occurring on a properly designed and maintained system,” said Andreas. “PSEG has failed to explain how or when these relay issues will be addressed.”

Walsh said that PSEG has developed several proposals in recent years to enhance load capacity to the village, including a fourth feeder line, which would provide the village with power exclusively. “We have recently met with the municipality to address their concerns, and we will continue to work with them to address the needs of their utility,” he wrote to the Herald in an email.

The new cable is part of what is known as the Western Nassau Transmission Project, which would power homes and businesses. It would start at the East Garden City substation, which is actually in Uniondale, and stretch to the Valley Stream substation, which is in Lynbrook. It would complement two 50-year-old cables now in use, and must be installed by 2020 in order to meet federal regulations.

Though the Long Island Power Authority has approved the project, which is expected to begin in mid-2019 and take about 18 months to complete, the Public Service Commission is still reviewing PSEG’s application, which involves the route of the cable.

The preferred one would begin on Stewart Avenue in Garden City and extend to Merrick Road in Lynbrook, but Andreas recommended another route — in which the line runs along Peninsula Boulevard — which he noted could open up the possibility to install a new interconnection substation.

“When we suggested an alternative route . . . that would permit a less expensive upgrade to enhance the reliability of Rockville Centre,” Andreas said, “we were told, to our great frustration, that the planning process was too far along even though we’ve repeatedly raised issues to both PSEG and LIPA.”

Walsh said in an email that “Rockville Centre’s call for this transmission line to be re-routed closer to their village would benefit their utility at substantial additional projected cost to all PSEG Long Island customers.”

The pleas come as the village’s Electric Department seeks to build a microgrid, a local energy network that can operate separately from a larger grid. Last year, the village was awarded $1 million in the second stage of the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority’s NY Prize Community Microgrid competition. The planned microgrid would serve about 5,000 residents and 58 facilities, village officials have said, including hospitals, first responder headquarters, drug stores, supermarkets and gas stations, and would also help the village move toward renewable energy sources. Bids for portions of the project have been sent out, Scully said.

Mayor Francis X. Murray and Andreas, who spoke on his behalf at the May 30 meeting, did not comment further.

Mike Smollins contributed to this story.