Proposed improvements to an NStar electrical transmission line that cuts a 15-mile swath through the Blue Hills region will increase capacity and reliability, company officials say, while addressing increasing service needs.
The Walpole to Holbrook Reliability Project, as the work will be known, would add a new 115,000-volt line on existing transmission structures along a right-of-way through Avon, Walpole, Sharon, Stoughton, Canton, Randolph, and Holbrook, said NStar spokesman Michael Durand.
The new circuit would deliver power to existing electrical substations in Walpole, Canton, and Norwood, and improve the availability of electricity to tens of thousands of NStar customers, he said.
Additionally, upgrades are planned for the substations in Walpole and Holbrook, and a new electrical switching station would be built on land the utility company owns at 63 Canton St. in Sharon, Durand said.
“We are looking pretty far in advance, but we want to be sure people in the towns where the new lines will be strung are aware,” he said.
The company is about to apply for regulatory approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, a process that will take at least 18 months. Once received, construction could likely begin in the fall of 2015 and last about nine months, Durand said.
The first public informational meeting, held on Feb. 26 at the Sharon Community Center, drew fewer than a dozen people, even though notice was given to residents who live within 300 feet of the line, and to a variety of news organizations, he said.
On the plus side, Durand said he heard no complaints at the informal gathering, which could mean people are comfortable with the information.
Or maybe they just didn’t know about it, suggested Canton Department of Public Works Superintendent Michael Trotta, who said in a telephone interview it was the first time he was hearing of the plan.
Trotta said the transmission corridor in question is located in a wooded area that cuts behind the Cobbs Corner Mall, at the junction of the Sharon, Stoughton, and Canton town lines.
Canton hasn’t had any issues with its electrical service, save for the kinds of outages from storms that all communities face, he said, and the occasional brown-out in summer when air conditioners are blasting.
The town has seen steady growth, Trotta said, but nothing like the population surge in the 1960s and 1970s when developments with 50 or 60 homes were going up right and left.
He said he sees few issues with the NStar plan, though, since the corridor is already cleared, and power lines on downtown streets and in neighborhoods won’t be affected.
Holbrook is not served by NStar, but Town Administrator William Phelan said a number of residents have serious concerns about the “unsightliness” of the proposed infrastructure near their homes at a substation where noise and bright lights from periodic night-time work are already considered annoyances.
“We have had issues in the past that we don’t feel were addressed,’’ Phelan said.
Still, he said, NStar officials seemed to be appearing in good faith when they attended a recent selectmen’s meeting to outline the electrical upgrade plan. He said they also promised to host other meetings locally, as well.
“Communication goes a long way,’’ Phelan said.
NStar, a Northeast Utilities company, transmits and delivers electricity and natural gas to 1.4 million customers in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, including more than 1 million electric customers in 81 communities and 300,000 gas customers in 51 communities, officials said.
In a statement, NStar president Craig Hallstrom said current energy needs in the Blue Hills region test the existing line’s capacity and reliability.
“The Walpole to Holbrook Reliability Project will boost access to much-needed power for local residents and businesses,” Hallstrom said. “Our engineers are always exploring ways to better meet customers’ electricity needs, and projects like this one designed to strengthen the backbone of the power grid are key to those efforts.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the proposal can call NStar community relations and economic development specialist Jack Lopes at 508-660-5251.