Substation will be walled off
By Scott Bellile
Passersby may notice an unusual construction project going on this spring near the New London Northeast Industrial Park, City Administrator Kent Hager advised local residents.
American Transmission Company plans to perform a $4.7 million physical security overhaul at its Werner West Substation located at 2613 Hintzke Road.
“They’re going to put a 24-foot tall concrete wall around that, all the way around it,” Hager said at the New London City Council meeting on Feb. 13. “It’s basically homeland security and it’s going to look kind of like a prison is being built, but it’s not. It’s just a concrete wall being put up to protect the facilities that are out there.”
The New London Planning Commission approved ATC’s site plan for the project on Feb. 22. Construction will take place from April through July, according to David Hovde, local relations consultant for De Pere-based ATC.
“The primary reason for it is physical security,” Hovde told the planning commission, adding such walls are being installed at ATC’s other substations and switching stations.
Upgrades will include the wall, surveillance cameras, “enhanced lighting” and an electrically controlled metal gate, Hovde said.
“The fundamental idea of putting in a wall like this in terms of security is that you can’t see through it, so you’d have to be inside or be up over the top of it to see what’s inside,” Hovde said. “It can’t be penetrated with any sort of conventional firearm, so it can’t be breached.”
“Have there been any credible threats or is this just being proactive?” Commissioner Cindy Goller later asked.
“It is something more than being proactive,” Hovde responded without elaborating, except for saying the substation is classified as a critical infrastructure due to its role within the state’s power grid.
Goller asked if a city-owned substation next door on Hintzke Road in need of its own security upgrades.
New London Utilities General Manager Steve Thompson said the city substation is fenced in to keep out intruders, but the utilities cannot afford the state-of-the-art fencing that ATC installs.
The Werner West substation is part of a 50-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line that connects New London to the Morgan Substation near Oconto Falls, according to ATC’s website. The Morgan-Werner West line supplies power to northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The line has been in service since 2009.
Hovde said the Werner West Substation’s increased value after the security upgrades will result in ATC paying higher impact fees to the city of New London. The commission did not discuss how much that would be.