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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NSTAR Acknowledges Problems, Promises Improvements

The Public Utilities and Public Works Committee held its second public hearing last night regarding power outages that plagued the Ball Square area over the summertime, leading to revenue loss for business owners.
NSTAR Official Logo
Acknowledging problems, NSTAR presented a plan to upgrade equipment in the city. Currently, the company has 37, 345 customers in Somerville and oversees 31 circuits sprawled over 4.1 miles. Starting in 2005, the company has been routinely upgrading equipment to improve service to Somerville, but have set their sights on vast upgrades to take place in 2011.

The Plan
NSTAR has sectioned the city off into four areas:
• Area 1: The Whole City
• Area 2: Ball Square/West Somerville
• Area 3: East Somerville
• Area 4: South Somerville

Studies and improvements have already begun in area one. This phase will include engineer fuse studies to expose where fuses need to be added. Fuses act as a trip mechanism when there is an outage. Rather than the whole circuit shut down, the fuse will trip to prevent all customers associated with the circuit to lose power.

Area two studies have begun, as well. Issues with transformers have been found already and will result in planned outages for customers, however, NSTAR will be making efforts to warn residents up to ten days in advance via letter or via phone if ten days are not available. Alderman O’Donovan suggested flyering the targeted area to which NSTAR agreed to have “conversations” about using that method. Future improvements include the installation of 6300 feet of new cable, 4 switching devices, and detailed inspection of all equipment with needed follow-up work to follow. All of this work will be completed underground.

Another inspection will occur at the Willow Avenue substation where NSTAR will be addressing issues as they arise. As planned, 11 air magnetic circuit breakers will be replaced with top-of-the-line vacuum breakers, the most advanced in the industry according to NSTAR. Currently, the substation is at 40% capacity-an explanation of this, in writing, was requested by Alderman O’Donovan. The completion date for the area 2 improvements has been set for May of 2011.

The last project that will affect West Somerville with be the evaluation of the Union Square substation that will bring 16 more circuits to the residents of both West and Central Somerville. The completion of this evaluation is tied into area 4 and has been set for July of 2011.

Overall, NSTAR has goals of increasing the months a customer experiences outages up to over 20 from their current rate of 11.7 (this rate includes ALL of Somerville) and decrease the outage time down from the 70 minute average customers currently experience.

Follow-up meetings surrounding this issue will be scheduled for January as well as the spring of 2011 in preparation for the summer months.

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