By Richard Gaines
---- — National Grid is in the midst of an $11 million electrical improvement project across Beverly, Hamilton and Wenham, and Cape Ann.
The project involves upgrading and adding as much as 15 miles of underground cable systems that will increase capacity to the utility’s distribution system as well as redundancies to reduce the chance of power outages.
Work began in September and is about 20 percent complete. Work should be finished by June 2013.
New cable is being introduced into the manhole and duct system that runs from Beverly through Manchester and Gloucester. The utility also said it would be upgrading equipment in its Beverly, Manchester and Gloucester substations to increase reliability and improve restoration time during outages.
“It all starts in the East Beverly substation,” said National Grid spokeswoman Charlotte McCormack. “Then the route follows 127 onto Salem Street into Manchester. Once there, it breaks off to Magnolia Avenue to Route 133/Essex Avenue to where it intersects with Main Street in Gloucester and runs to the substation next to Gorton’s.”
The new line will become the primary delivery line and will be located at a greater distance from the commuter rail tracks.
The old line is within 3 feet of the tracks in many places. So, to do maintenance and other work in the past, National Grid had to either have the MBTA trains stopped or work around their schedule, said Dan Cameron, manager of community and customer management for National Grid.
Once the new cables are installed, the majority will be far enough from the tracks so that maintenance will not involve the MBTA.
National Grid hired ElecComm Corp. of Winchester to lay the new cable.
Each day, according to ElecComm officials, two to three reels of cable are installed — about 1,000 to 1,500 feet per day. The copper cables weigh 15 pounds per foot.
While workers are in the manholes, they also meter for various gases inside and on themselves, for safety.
ElecComm estimates that the bulk of the work placing cables underground will be completed in the area by the end of January. There is little to no digging needed to install the cables, as they’re using existing manholes on the roads.
“A top priority of National Grid is to provide safe and reliable service to customers and businesses in the communities we serve,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid, Massachusetts. “Continuous investment in our infrastructure is vital to help reduce the occurrence of power outages and assure that we have capacity in the system to allow for economic growth.”