BAR HARBOR — The new building at the corner of Eden Street and Prospect Avenue looks like a large carriage house, but it houses a state-of-the-art electrical substation set to go live around the end of the year, officials said.
“Everything connecting immediately around the substation is underground,” Steve Sloan of power company Emera Maine said, so no large power lines surround the facility.
Crews installed conduits under Eden Street for some of those connections in the last few weeks, and a fresh strip of pavement is in place. “We had a limited window,” Sloan said, “because the asphalt plants shut down right around Thanksgiving, so we were pushing to get it done while we could still get asphalt.”
A portion of Prospect Avenue has been closed during the construction for safety and should re-open around the first of the year, he said.
The substation performed well in initial tests, he said. “We energized the substation the week before last to test it, it has received energy, and everything was functioning properly.”
They then de-energized the facility to complete the commissioning work that is expected to take a few more weeks.
“Toward the end of the year, we will re-energize the station, and it will begin to serve load in the area.”
That will immediately improve reliability of the system here, he said, because the new substation is a stronger system than the separate padmount transformers connected to those circuits now.
The padmounts and the downtown substation on Edgewood Street will be phased out gradually. The total transition to a new system won’t be complete until a new, second transmission line running along Route 3 is installed and connected to the new substation, and after transfer of the downtown circuits is completed.
The timeline for that work, Sloan said, depends on coordination with the Maine Department of Transportation’s upcoming Route 3 rebuild project.
Emera purchased the property and began work last fall. The site was chosen and plans for the facility discussed with a citizens’ advisory group for more than a year, following long debate about appropriate locations and community impact of the facility. The company plans to add landscaping to the site in the spring.
A 2015 citizens’ petition amended the town’s land use ordinance (LUO) to disallow “public utility installation” and “public utility facility” uses in certain residential districts in the town, including the one where the new substation is located, but Emera received its building permits for the project before the change took effect.