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More Power to the People

PSE&G rushes a new set of transformers into service to buttress the output of aging unitsBranchburg

They?re as big as Cape Cod-style houses, resemble grey metal boxes and can keep a total of 950,000 homes lit. They?re the electric power transformers that Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) installed at its Branchburg switching station last month to buttress units that were derated in March 2004 and had to power down.
The new bank contains two new transformers and a spare that had been on the site; it is to be replaced by a third transformer that is expected from the Netherlands next month. ?Normal completion of a project this size would take two-and-a-half years,? says Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G vice president for electric delivery. ?By working closely with the manufacturer we compressed the schedule to one year.?
The upgrades at Branchburg are part of the utility?s plan to invest $46 million in new transformers over the next two years. The spending will include $36 million at Branchburg and $10 million at a switching station in Camden County.
The Branchburg station, which distributes power to PSE&G customers throughout the Northeast, uses the transformers to step down current for commercial, residential and industrial use. The company generates the power from plants in New Jersey and imports it from utilities in other states.
The new bank of transformers will increase the output at Branchburg by 950 Mw, or nearly 80%. The station lost 400 Mw last year when its two existing banks of transformers had to cut output over concerns about overheating and the risk of fire. The aging powered-down units have been in operation at the station since 1968. ?This provides another path to bring cheap electricity in,? says LaRossa.
Prior to the arrival of the new transformers the Branchburg facility could handle no more than 1,200 Mw, or enough for 1.2 million homes. By 2007, the utility plans to replace Branchburg?s two older banks of transformers with units produced in Holland and France.
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