Lessons from Sandy: National Grid looks to future

Posted at: 11/15/2012 5:55 PM
Updated at: 11/15/2012 5:57 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

SCHENECTADY - At a time when line workers are in high demand downstate, National Grid trainees were getting ready Thursday, to face future outages, large and small.

After Hurricane Sandy, utilities took heavy criticism for taking days and weeks to get downstate New Yorkers back on line. National Grid workers were contracted by the Long Island Power Authority to do much of that work.

"Our crews have been down there a few weeks working long day 16 hours day sometimes more if needed," said Patrick Stella, spokesperson for National Grid.

But is stringing more poles and lines in our cities and towns still the best way to keep the flow of electricity going in a disaster? National Grid said for now, it is.

"In the last five years in upstate New York we've spent 1.6-billion-dollars in our infrastructure to upgrade the infrastructure to put in new equipment," Stella said.

"I think we're all going to walk away with lessons learned that we've got to do things differently," said Joseph Sarubbi of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Sarubbi's organization co-sponsored the Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference in Albany this week. He said the devastation of Sandy taught us we've got to think out of the box when it comes to energy.

"The opportunity for people to have solar in their homes. The opportunity for small wind turbines to be installed in localized areas where people can draw electrons from that as opposed from some large utility power-generated plant," he said.

"We've been very proactive to go in and put in the latest technology that we have to try to get power to people and I think we welcome this discussion, we want to be a part of it.," said Stella.

He added that some of the ways the utility is modernizing its system are to install improved fuses, and more animal guards on poles to reduce outages.