By Peggy Keane, vice president, Construction and Operation Services
Superstorm Sandy, which struck in October 2012, taught the entire tristate region some important lessons about what parts of the energy grid were vulnerable to severe weather. It brought enormous storm surges and flooding to coastal areas. It also damaged thousands of utility poles and brought down many lines.
PSEG Long Island is a continuous improvement organization and we have been working on strengthening the system ever since we took over the electrical grid in 2014. The first step in improving its resilience was to implement Long Island’s $730 Million Storm Hardening Program. This program was federally funded via an agreement between the governor and FEMA in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Through the FEMA program, we replaced many of the poles on the circuits that were hardest hit by Sandy with thicker, slightly taller poles that are capable of withstanding winds up to 135 mph — which is in the lower range of a category 4 hurricane.
Here are a few of the other components of our storm-hardening work.
- Shorter Cross Arms: Using shorter cross arms on the poles is a simple but effective solution. The idea is to move the lines closer together — the two lines at the ends of the cross arm and the line at the very top of the pole — which creates a steeper “A” shape that deflects many falling tree limbs instead of cradling them.
- Thicker Insulated Wires: Even with the new design, limbs do sometimes fall across power lines. For that reason, we sought out lines (or “conductors”) with thicker insulation around the wire. This makes it far less likely that a branch will cause an electric problem if it touches the electric wires.
- Automatic Switching Equipment: These preparations will not prevent all outages, so we set out to minimize the number of customers that have to be affected when equipment fails. Automatic switching equipment reroutes power around the failed equipment, isolating the immediate area where the damage occurred and bringing the lights back on for the surrounding customers. PSEG Long Island has installed 894 devices on circuits we have completed hardening.
Since 2014, PSEG Long Island has made these FEMA-funded storm hardening and reliability improvements to more than 1,000 miles of distribution mainline circuits.
And, as the FEMA-funded work concluded, PSEG Long Island chose to continue storm hardening distribution circuits with a new program. Power On, started in the spring of 2020, picking up where the FEMA funding left off by continuing to strengthen distribution lines, targeting the most vulnerable circuits across Long Island and the Rockaways. Since the launch of this program, more than 237 miles of distribution mainline circuits have been storm hardened with stronger poles, thicker wire and other modern equipment.
We are seeing real reliability improvements associated with FEMA and Power On. From the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2022, the sections of circuits that are storm hardened saw a 46% reduction in damage leading to outages compared to the rest of the distribution system.
We will never stop working to make things better for our customers. In 2023, we will be expanding our Power On work beyond the mainline distribution circuits, also hardening certain three-phase branch lines that split off from the mainlines with the same kinds of wire, cross arm and pole improvements.
To learn more about our storm hardening work, please visit https://www.psegliny.com/inthecommunity/currentinitiatives/stormhardeningprojects.
If you would like to leave feedback about any of our projects, please visit https://www.psegliny.com/inthecommunity/currentinitiatives/reliabilityprojects.