Residents Seek Assurances About Power Line Upgrade

by | Feb 12, 2023

RI Energy plans to resize towers in corridor next to Route 4 

Rhode Island Energy is looking for permission from the state Public Utilities Commission to upgrade the electrical transmission lines that run alongside Route 4, past EGHS playing fields, Avenger Drive, and houses along Cindy Ann Drive. 

Representatives of RI Energy spoke to the Energy Facilities Siting Board* at a public meeting at EGHS Feb. 7. Officials said the power lines need an upgrade but the timing of the work has been prompted by the building of the Revolution Wind project off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Power generated by RW’s 100 wind turbines will be sent to two substations on land – one at Fall River and one at Quonset. Revolution Wind is paying to upgrade the transmission lines from Quonset in North Kingstown through East Greenwich and to the Drum Rock substation in Warwick, at an estimated cost of $58.6 million. It’s a cost typically borne by ratepayers.

The work along the nine-mile corridor calls for the replacement of 162 towers and removal of 10. The new towers will be taller by a few feet. 

Residents at Tuesday’s meeting voiced concerns ranging from how significant the disturbance will be during construction and whether or not blasting would be required, to the disruption to native species and habitats and possible archaeological sites. 

Derek Steinbrenner, chair of the EG Land Trust, asked if the work would limit public access to two town properties (the Hunt River Preserve and, to a lesser extent, the Fry Brook recreation area), as well as impinging on Avenger Drive, the only way in and out of the high school and Fry Brook. He also raised the question of electromagnetic fields and cancer (here’s info from the National Cancer Institute about EMFs). 

EG Planning Board member Marc Gertsacov said more notice about the project would have been helpful. He and other commenters were frustrated that they were only now learning about this project. 

The meeting, however, was not a question-and-answer session. Ron Gerwatowski, PUC chair, urged the RI Energy officials in attendance to arrange to meet with the EG Land Trust and/or Planning Board. RI Energy officials said they would be holding open houses about the project**. In addition to needing PUC approval, the project needs approvals from the state departments of environment and transportation.

The transmission line upgrade is on the Planning Board’s agenda for Wednesday as a subject for discussion.

Photo Credit: RI Energy

* The original version of this story misstated the name of the siting board and said it was part of the PUC; it is not. But the PUC chair does sit on the siting board.

** The original version of this story said any open houses would take place after the project got approvals; according to R.I. Energy, they will be held in advance of approvals. 

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