National Grid Invests $US93m in Aquidneck’s Electric Infrastructure

Aquidneck Island’s power grid upgrade will improve supply to a growing customer base.
Published: Tue 27 Jan 2015

National Grid, a electricity and natural gas delivery company that connects nearly 7 million customers to vital energy sources through its networks in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, will invest an estimated US$93 million in the electricity transmission and distribution systems on Aquidneck Island . This will help the company supply more reliable power to the nearly 32,000 homes and businesses in Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport. The project, “OnIsland”, which has been officially named the Aquidneck Island Reliability Project, is slated to begin this year and will conclude in 2020. The progress is pending approvals and permits.

Outdated infrastructure

The electrical system that serves Aquidneck Island is outdated by today’s standards, and is already stretched near to the limits of its intended capacity, says Timothy F. Horan, president of National Grid in Rhode Island. Some substations were built back in 1949.

The project forms part of Connect21- National Grid’s vision of the energy delivery company of the future. Says Horan, “It will not only strengthen the backbone of the transmission and distribution systems on the Island it will enable us to provide energy solutions for our customers in the future. Our planned upgrades mean that all of our customers on the Island can expect that power will be more reliably delivered where and when it is needed and service restoration following interruptions will be accelerated.”

Increasing capacity and reliability

The project will increase delivery capacity on the Island to meet the power supply needs into the future. A study of the Island determined that the current system has a peak load of 147MW -- the maximum amount of electricity consumed at any given point in time, an increase of nearly 50MW since 1990. However, recent forecasts indicate a near-future peak load need of approximately 167MW – a difference of 20MW, or enough electricity to power roughly 3,000 homes for a year.

“The plan we’ll be putting before permitting boards is the result of an extensive exploratory process that ultimately yielded the most cost-effective and customer-sensitive solution for the Island,” says Horan.

The planned upgrades to the system include construction of two state-of-the-art substations (in Middletown and Newport) with remote operation capabilities; reconfiguration of two high-voltage transmission lines located in National Grid rights-of-way between Portsmouth and Middletown; and an array of local distribution work (the lines in the streets that tie into homes and businesses) in Middletown and Newport. Completion of this work also means that five substations on the Island will be deconstructed.

To help keep the community informed, National Grid has launched a number of easily accessible tools that will inform their customers about the project and provide updates on the project’s progress.