FERC FIVES – Rachel Redden

By Kathy Hill

Five questions that help us get to know employees within and that support the FERC Jurisdiction

Rachel ReddenRachel Redden, who hails from Queensbury, New York, is a senior engineer in Transmission Engineering–New York.  She joined the company in 2007 and worked until 2009 when she returned to school to earn her Master’s Degree.  With degree in hand, Rachel returned to National Grid in 2012.  Here, she reflects on her six years at National Grid and talks about her passions outside of work.

What/who inspired you to become an engineer?

I am thankful to have a very supportive family that has supported me through every step of my life. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in high school, but I loved math and science. My uncle, who was a civil engineer and worked for Niagara Mohawk and then National Grid, encouraged me to go to school for engineering since he saw my love for math and science.  I chose civil engineering, like my uncle, because I love the outdoors, and I thought it would allow time to be out in the field and exploring the outdoors.

What projects are you currently working on and how do they benefit National Grid customers?

I’m currently working on new transmission interconnections for the Lasher Road Substation and the Schaghticoke Substation in Saratoga Springs, NY. These stations are being constructed to support growth on the Luther Forest Technology Campus, which is one of our major transmission customers and a key driver of the local economy.  Located in the heart of New York’s “Tech Valley,” Luther Forest is home to Global Foundries, the most advanced semiconductor fabrication facility in the world. These new connections to the transmission grid will improve reliability by providing multiple electric feeds for Luther Forest, helping to significantly reduce service interruptions and increase reliability.

Another interesting project was the Watervliet/Arsenal job. Located along the Hudson River just a few miles north of Albany, Watervliet Arsenal is America’s sole manufacturer of large-caliber cannons, and is another major transmission customer. Initially, the Watervliet Arsenal Substation was fed from a single line. This project involved reconfiguring the lines so that Arsenal would have two separate feeds.  It was a tricky project due to site constraints and line congestion in the area of construction, but I found it to be very interesting and gained some valuable experience from working on this project.

  1. What matters most to you about your job?

The typical jobs for civil engineers are to design bridges, buildings, and highways; it’s not very common to work in the utility business designing electric lines. I enjoy that this field is unique, and since electricity is utilized by everyone, it’s vital to ensure that we provide reliable, cost-effective service for our customers.

One of the most important things about my job is working with Operations and Transmission Line Service (TLS) to make sure they are satisfied with the design that I play a part in developing, and that they will be constructing.  I enjoy collaborating with them during the project design and as I continue to gain more experience I realize that their expertise goes well beyond whether a project is buildable.  They know which lines are difficult to take out of service, if there have been previous issues with property owners along our right-of-way, where difficult access points are and other information that is very useful when designing a project. Of course, we need to follow protocols and go through the Transmission Control Center for outage constraints and the Real Estate team to confirm our access rights, but early on in the project input from TLS and Operations is extremely valuable.

If you hadn’t become an engineer, what other profession might you have chosen?

When I was in high school, I loved earth science, and had considered being a geologist. I was very interested in how different types of rocks were formed.

Another field I was interested in was physical therapy. Since I am passionate about being active and have an interest in fitness, I thought it would be fulfilling to help others get better post-injury so that they could regain strength and get back outdoors, too.

I hear you have a passion for the outdoors…do tell!

I enjoy being active outside to stay in shape, and stay healthy. I also like to push myself physically and to travel and explore. Hiking has taken me all over New England for short day trips; whether it’s to hike to the top of a mountain or to a small lake. It’s fun to keep a list of where I’ve been; for example, I have hiked all of the New York State Adirondack 46 high peaks (mountains with elevations greater than 4,000 feet).  It was fun to work my way down my list as I hiked each one of them. I’m now working on hiking the New Hampshire White Mountains 48 high peaks and only have about a quarter left to go!  Backpacking (overnight hiking) is also fun for mini weekend getaways.

Another favorite is going on bike rides to explore different areas. I have been on 100-mile “century” rides that have taken me along coastal New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.  Another ride through central New York took me to charming towns, the Finger Lakes and pretty rolling hills. Had I not gone on this ride, I never would have discovered those beautiful areas.

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