Utility planning upgrades in area

KEARNY –

New Jersey’s biggest utility wants to run an underwater power line from Newark to Kearny to upgrade its West Hudson electric grid – apparently in response to the increased pace of development.

This plan came to light at the Oct. 11 meeting of the Kearny governing body when the agenda referenced an item slated for private caucus: “Proposed PSE&G utility conduit at lower end of Veteran’s Field.”

“It is the subject of closed [discussion] because it entails potential litigation,” said Mayor Alberto Santos. “PSEG seeks to install a power transmission conduit from Newark, under the Passaic River, and come out at Passaic Ave. in Kearny at the bottom of Bunny Hill.”

From that point, the transmission line would reportedly be stretched above ground along overhead utility lines, possibly to a Harrison-based electric station, sources said.

However, given that the proposed Kearny end point would be located within dedicated parkland, there could be restrictions in the deed to the property that may prohibit this type of commercial use, sources said.

In case the Veteran’s Field site is ruled out, Michael Neglia, the town’s consulting engineer, said he understands that the utility “is looking at possible alternate locations” in Kearny for the proposed conduit.

“It is their burden to fully present its plan at a future meeting of the mayor and council,” Neglia said. The utility reportedly “has a consultant” advising them on the plan, he added.

“Everything is on hold,” Neglia said, “until we get all the information. There’s a lot of moving pieces.”

When The Observer questioned the utility about what to expect, spokesman Jaye R. Cavallo offered this statement: “As you are aware, we are striving to reinforce our infrastructure in this area, and throughout the state, to build redundancy and enhance the reliability of our electric system for our customers.

“To that end, we are exploring various options and routes in the area to upgrade our network to 69kV. This particular project is still in its preliminary stage.”

It has advanced to the extent that in March, PSE&G applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Land Use Regulation for a permit to conduct a geotechnical survey in preparation for test borings for what is listed as the “Kearny 69kV Crossing.”

A Jan. 22 report by PSE&G’s Esam Khadr Sr., director of electric delivery planning, to the PJM Sub Regional RTEP (Regional Transmission Expansion Plan) Committee/MidAtlantic offers some clues on what the utility hopes to achieve with the underwater crossing.

Referring to the utility’s “Kearny 69Kv breaker station,” the report notes that its Harrison 26kV electric power station, which dates from 1912, is “projected to be overloaded by 2018” and a related station on Clay St. in Newark, in service since 1941, figures to be overloaded by 2025, both due to “increased load growth,” presumably resulting from new energy customers in the area.

“PSEG is addressing the aging 26kV infrastructure [at these locations] and also the station overload problems by 69kV conversion. In addition to addressing overloads, this also ensures adequate capacity for future growth.”

As a “proposed solution,” PSEG is considering building a new “230-69kV switching station in the area to provide added capacity,” along with a “three-bay breaker and a half 69kV switching station.” The new station “will be in a central location to serve the load and also provide adequate capacity for future growth in the area.” Also part of this plan is building a new transmission line from Kearny to a Bergen County location.

Overall estimated cost for the project is listed as $125.1 million.

Project status in the report was described as “conceptual.”

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.