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PSEG IDs two new potential sites for electric stations in Montauk

One of the five sites under consideration - on a hillside off Flamingo Road - has drawn widespread community opposition.

John O’Connell, PSEG vice president of transmission and distribution, on Wednesday discusses options to improve electricity reliability in the Montauk area. (Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington)

PSEG Long Island is working from a list of five potential sites for a new electric-system substation in Montauk, including upgrading its existing facility on Fort Pond and a new site north of a town recycling center and away from homes, a PSEG official said Wednesday.

The five sites include a controversial parcel on a hillside off Flamingo Road that has drawn widespread community opposition. PSEG has stressed that its plans for the substation are far from final. The two new sites have not previously been disclosed.

“Residents have raised some valid points” about the Flamingo Road site,” said John O’Connell, PSEG’s vice president of transmission and distribution. “We know they don’t want it there.”

O’Connell said alternatives would be presented to residents in a public meeting in late February or March. Plans for a new substation, which is a facility that steps down high voltage from power plants to lower voltages used in homes and businesses, is central to PSEG’s plan to meet a growing peak load on the South Fork and in Montauk. The plan includes $513 million in upgrades throughout the Hamptons.

The Flamingo Avenue site had raised concerns about aesthetics and impacts on a water-recharge area and a Montaukett Indian burial ground. Robert Pharaoh, chief of the Montaukett Indian Nation, Wednesday said he strongly opposes disturbance of the Flamingo Road site, which sits on ground the tribe considers sacred. “I suggest they consider somewhere else,” he said.

Building on the existing substation site, which sits on a parcel that juts out into Fort Pond on Industrial Road, doesn’t present a flooding or aesthetic issue, O’Connell said, because the utility would raise the facility up to 12 feet. The utility also can design the site, at any location, so that the equipment is hidden inside a closed structure, even one that looks like a residence.

Told of PSEG’s consideration of new alternatives, Shaun de Jesus, who is leading opposition to the Flamingo Road site, called it a “hugely positive” development. He said the site north of the recycling center was “the best possible site.” A spokesman for Suffolk County, which owns that site, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Other sites include a LIPA-owned lot on Shore Road beside a storage battery, and the recycling center on a former landfill. 

The plan to build a new substation in Montauk is part of PSEG’s $513 million plan to upgrade the entire South Fork grid to address a growing peak load. While the rest of Long Island is seeking peak-load reductions, the South Fork has been growing by more than 2 percent a year, and could see that increase to as much as 2.6 percent over the next decade, said Anie Philip, director of transmission and distribution planning.

Montauk is “not only bucking the trend on Long Island, it’s bucking the trend everywhere,” said PSEG spokesman David Gaier.

In Montauk, PSEG plans to upgrade a current 4,000-volt distribution network with a 13,000-volt network, while the transmission grid into substations will be upgraded to 33,000 volts from a current maximum 23,000 volts.

While most of the Montauk grid is 50 to 100 years old, it’s not age that necessitates its replacement but higher peak usage, Philips said, with long summer peaks between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. PSEG has enacted peak-power reduction programs on the South Fork, but they’ve cut peak only around 2 megawatts last year and an expected 7-8 megawatts this year, Philip said.

“It did help us delay some of the work, but it wasn’t enough to forever delay it,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said newly installed 5-megawatt battery storage unit on Shore Road and temporary generators brought in for the summer helped the company forestall the need for upgrades, but the long-term trend necessitates a new substation and greater capacity on the power lines.

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