utility

Key Infrastructure Projects are Powering NJ

Utility companies team up with the construction trades to build and enhance New Jersey’s energy infrastructure.

Energy infrastructure projects are a key driver of economic growth throughout New Jersey. Ensuring reliable energy via electricity and natural gas, these types of projects help to create better conditions for everyone in the state, while also providing thousands of good paying jobs to skilled workers. Without a stable energy infrastructure, today’s economy would grind to a screeching halt.

In this article, New Jersey Business takes a look at a few key infrastructure projects and initiatives that will help bolster the state’s economy and provide power to millions of New Jersey residents.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, about 75% of New Jersey households rely on natural gas as their primary heating fuel.

Through its two regulated natural gas utilities, South Jersey Gas Co. and Elizabethtown Gas Co., South Jersey Industries Inc. (SJI) is currently undertaking several multi-year infrastructure investment programs to enhance the safety and reliability of its gas-utility systems.

“Through 2020, South Jersey Gas has replaced 804 miles of gas main as part of the Accelerated Infrastructure Replacement Program (AIRP), currently in its second phase,” explains Melissa Orsen, senior vice president, SJI and president, SJI Utilities. “AIRP targets replacing aging cast iron and bare steel in the South Jersey Gas distribution infrastructure to ensure system reliability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. South Jersey Gas expects to replace all remaining bare steel and cast iron in its system by the end of 2021.”

South Jersey Gas is also making improvements to enhance the reliability and resiliency of its system in coastal communities through the Storm Hardening and Reliability Program (SHARP).

The first phase, known as SHARP I, resulted in the replacement of 92 miles of gas main to protect infrastructure in advance of future significant weather events. Through 2020, SHARP II resulted in the installation of approximately 9,100 excess flow valves (EFVs) within the barrier island communities. Orsen says that in the event of damage to a gas line, EFVs can stop leaks by automatically shutting off service.

The Elizabethtown Gas Infrastructure Investment Program (IIP) also targets replacing vintage cast iron, bare steel, ductile iron, copper and vintage plastic mains and services. This $300 million five-year program began on July 1, 2019 and, when completed, will replace approximately 250 miles of main. From 2019 through 2020, Elizabethtown Gas replaced 89.9 miles of main.

“These infrastructure enhancement programs improve energy infrastructure resiliency, enable us to prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters, reduce methane leaks, improve environmental outcomes and contribute to the local and regional economies by providing employment opportunities for scores of workers,” Orsen says.

Shifting from natural gas to the electrical grid, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) recently completed the replacement of an underwater high-voltage transmission line, stretching more than a mile across Barnegat Bay along the Tunney-Mathis Bridges, to enhance electric service reliability to New Jersey’s barrier islands.

According to the company, dredging operations in recent years are believed to have damaged the underwater transmission line that ran through the area, necessitating its replacement.

The new 34.5-kilovolt line is one of four high-voltage power sources serving approximately 30,000 JCP&L customers on the barrier islands, including the communities of Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Normandy Beach, Brick, Lavallette, Dover/Toms River, Ortley Beach, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Berkeley and Island Beach State Park.

The new line now safely sits 10 feet below the bay’s soft, sandy base. Each of the three cables that make up the line are wrapped with 28 strands of aluminum armor wire, providing robust protection and eliminating the need for a bundled armor casing commonly used in underwater power line projects.

“This project supports our commitment to using new, innovative ways to improve service reliability by utilizing an emerging technology that places the submarine line in a safer location while also minimizing the work’s impact on the bay’s fragile ecosystem,” says Jim Fakult, president of JCP&L. “The new line helps ensure that our barrier island customers will have the reliable service they need.”

Construction Trades Contribute

Utilities like SJI and JCP&L work closely with local unions from the construction trades to accomplish many of the infrastructure enhancement programs seen across the state.

For example, this past July, South Jersey Gas cut the ribbon on the New Sentury Pump Station in South Harrison Township – a $69 million infrastructure project that improves reliability for customers by maintaining consistent pressure in gas distribution lines in the event of severe weather or a man-made disruption. Orsen says that SJI partnered with trade unions representing laborers, operators, ironworkers, carpenters, pipefitters, electrical workers, and dockworkers to help complete the project.

“These skilled workers provide the expertise and manpower necessary to complete our infrastructure improvement programs in an efficient and effective manner, and our partnership with the trade unions gives us and our customers the peace of mind of knowing that our gas delivery system is in the hands of properly trained, proficient workers who uphold the highest standards of safety, dependability and craftsmanship,” she says.

Another example of an increased demand for construction trade work is that of the growing off-shore wind industry.

“Ground was recently broken at the New Jersey Wind Port project in Salem County that will provide much needed construction and maintenance jobs that New Jersey has not been fortunate to have had before,” says William C. Sproule, executive secretary-treasurer, Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. “With more and more leases being bought off the shore of New Jersey, this port will help to ensure we are leaders in the industry.”

The New Jersey Wind Port is expected to support up to $500 million in new economic activity within the state and region each year, and its construction will create hundreds of union jobs.

Sproule says that the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters has already started to prepare for this influx of work by expanding its Hammonton Training Center with an emphasis on needed skills such as pile driving and heavy construction training.

“This is no small investment and has already brought in hundreds of construction workers from as far as Pittsburgh and Boston to train in the skills needed to construct and maintain off-shore wind turbines,” Sproule says. “New Jersey and our union will be leaders in this industry.”

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