Energizing the Susquehanna-Roseland (S-R) transmission line on May 11 was a great moment for PSE&G, for PPL Electric Utilities, which built the portion of the line in Pennsylvania – and for the state of New Jersey. As someone who was with the S-R project since its inception, I couldn’t be more pleased that this important electrical highway is now complete.
PJM, the regional transmission operator that operates the electric grid in New Jersey and other nearby states, first mandated the S-R project in 2007 to address reliability issues that would begin affecting the grid in 2012. While PJM has been able to implement short-term fixes over the last three years, S-R was essential to ensure the long-term stability of the grid. The project consisted of constructing a new 500-kilovolt line to augment an existing 80-year old line operating at 230-kilovolt – from the Susquehanna station in Berwick, Pa., to PSE&G’s Roseland switching station. This required PPL and PSE&G to rebuild the towers to carry both lines. PSE&G built the 45-mile section of the line in New Jersey, while PPL built the 101-mile Pennsylvania portion.
S-R presented a number of complex engineering and construction challenges, none greater than the need to build the line across environmentally sensitive areas, including wetlands and a four-mile stretch through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. PSE&G took a number of steps to minimize our impact on these areas and their native plants and wildlife. For example, where we could we used helicopters for crew transport and tower installation, eliminating trucks, cranes and other project equipment from traveling along these environmentally sensitive areas. (When the line was first constructed in the 1920s, PSE&G crews hauled metal for the towers using mules and wooden trailers over the rough and rocky terrain.)
We also brought in certified wildlife monitors to ensure that our construction activity did no harm to the park’s wildlife. And after our work was completed, we carried out a painstaking restoration of the right of way, which required the removal of more than three miles of access roads, 16 work pads, three staging areas, tons of stone and thousands of wetland mats. We then re-graded the ground, spread new topsoil and planted native seed mixes with species customized to the particular habitat. So pleased was the National Park Service by the extensive measures we took that Kathleen Sandt, a spokeswoman for the NPS said, “If you have to have somebody building a power line in your backyard, these folks [PSE&G] are great to work with.”
The successful completion of this project underscores an important point: We should not – and do not — have to choose between improving critical infrastructure and safeguarding the environment. If S-R shows us anything, it demonstrates that we can replace and upgrade our infrastructure in an environmentally responsible manner, and that is what we must do if our state is going to continue to grow and prosper.
It is worth adding that S-R is just one of a number of upgrades to our electric transmission and distribution facilities that will see PSE&G invest $10.8 billion [Forward Looking Statement] over the next five years. Not only will this investment improve the resiliency and maintain the reliability of our system, it created about 6,000 good-paying jobs here at PSE&G, in the construction trades across New Jersey, and with New Jersey-based businesses that supply us with the materials and resources we need to carry out our work.
That is what makes all of us at PSEG proudest: Not only are we helping to power New Jersey, we are also helping to power New Jersey’s economy. That is a winning proposition for PSE&G, for our millions of customers, and for the people of New Jersey.