Berlin, WOC getting new, steel utility poles

(Sept. 12, 2014) Berlin officials announced during a Mayor and Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 8, that Delmarva Power plans to replace several transmission poles in the area, requiring a four-to-six hour interruption of power on Dec. 9.

The company will replace all of the 60-65 foot wooden poles between the Worcester Substation on Old Ocean City Boulevard and Route 50 and the West Ocean City Substation on Golf Course Road with 80-90 foot steel poles. Poles in Berlin will be brown steel, and poles toward Route 611 will be galvanized steel. Delmarva Power estimates the project to run from Oct. 1 through May 2015.

The power interruption will affect more than 2,400 Berlin customers and more than 11,000 Delmarva Power Customers.

“The entire town will be down for that time period,” said Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence.

Lawrence said the town discussed the possibility of adverse weather conditions with Delmarva Power.

“We talked about the temperature outside – during December it could be pretty cold or snowing or whatever, so it’s all based on weather conditions,” he said.

A set minimum temperature was not set, but Lawrence said state restrictions could come into play.

“From November through March we cannot shut off anybody, even for nonpayment, unless it’s 32 degrees and rising for 72 hours – that’s state law,” Lawrence said. “That’s going to play into this.”

“With any time of planned outage the biggest factor is coordination, and we will certainly coordinate that with the town and its electric system to ensure that everything is done well in advance,” said Delmarva Power Sr. Public Affairs Manager Jim Smith. “If we have a severe cold snap we’ll certainly have to reconsider. Our system operations folks will work around that.”

Smith said the upgrades would improve the reliability of electric service in Worcester County.

“Delmarva Power is making significant investments to keep power flowing to its customers and – in the event of an interruption – to restore services as quickly and safely as possible,” he said. “In this project we’re modifying infrastructure that was originally constructed about 50 years ago. It’s a sizable project that improves service not only for our customers, but for the customers served by the town of Berlin’s as well.”

Along with the wooden transmission structures, Delmarva Power will replace all of the wires and insulation, essentially modernizing the entire corridor. The company is also replacing the manual switch at the tie in point behind the police substation in Berlin with two fully automated switches.

“Right now if something happens to the transmission line they actually have to send somebody here to manually operate that switch,” said Lawrence. “Depending on where that person is it could be one or two hours. Being able to do it remotely the way they’re going to have it set up with automated switching, their operator can do it from wherever their operation center is within minutes. We don’t have to wait for somebody to show up.”

Berlin, which purchases power from Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc., uses some Delmarva Power infrastructure. Lawrence said customers in town would not experience rate increases due to the project.

It is unclear how much the $43 million project will affect other Delmarva Power customers.

“This is just one of numerous transmission projects that we have (planned) for the next five years,” Smith said. “We’ve spent about a billion dollars across the Delmarva Power service territory.”

Smith said he was pleased with his interaction with the Mayor and Council.

“I thought it was very well received,” he said. “There were a couple of questions, but I thought the council looked forward to working on the project with us. The biggest component for us will be when we actually tie in to the town of Berlin system in that early December time frame, but that’s why we set up the meeting with them – to inform them about the upgrade.

“We place a high value on all of our customers including what I call our ‘wholesale’ customers like the town of Berlin, which own their own electric system,” Smith continued. “We place a high value on providing reliable service to them because our transmission system interconnects to their distribution systems, so that’s a very important relationship that we have with them.”

Delmarva Power will host a community meeting discussing the project on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Firehouse on 10124 Keyser Point Road in West Ocean City.

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