National Grid builds a better way to power Prudence Island

By Jennifer Bray

New National Grid truck to be permanently housed on remote Prudence Island.

Picturesque Prudence Island is perched in Narragansett Bay. And the only way to get there is by boat.

For the resourceful fifty-plus residents that winter on the island, when a big storm sweeps in, that scenic isolation can have unintended consequences.

“Many, like me, depend on electricity for heat,” said longtime resident Ed Aldrich. “We are the only location in the entire state with no locally available resources,” he said.

But now thanks to a partnership with National Grid’s Community and Customer Management team, that will be changing. A new bucket truck has been built specifically for the challenging conditions that exist on Prudence Island. And on Friday, November 22nd it was brought by ferry to be housed on the island permanently.

“Prudence Island really needed this truck,” said National Grid’s Parker Capwell. He’s a manager within electrical operations.

The vehicle has been outfitted with four-wheel drive to get through the dirt and mud on Prudence Island. Only one portion of paved road over a one-mile stretch exists on the eastern side of the island. The rest are dirt roads. Combined with terrain that is steep, hilly, heavily wooded it makes accessing transmission lines difficult.

“There have been storms and situations before where locals have had to pilot their own boats across the waters to pick up National Grid workers and then they have had to walk to the job sites on the island,” said Capwell.

“The truck is outfitted with a material handler, so it is capable of doing more work including transformer changeouts,” Capwell said.

Ed Aldrich has been coming to Prudence Island since 1946. He is a semi-retired technical engineer for a computer software vendor and chairs the Prudence Island Planning Commission.

“Staging a vehicle on the island dramatically improves the National Grid response time,” Aldrich said. “Now we simply need to transport the linemen to the island using Portsmouth rescue boats.” The new truck will be housed at the Department of Public Works on Prudence Island.

The impetus for having the National Grid truck permanently housed on the island happened last year. It was during a Prudence Island Planning Commission meeting that the issue of continuing brown-outs in one portion of the island was raised. That’s when the commission members were introduced by the Portsmouth Town Administrator to National Grid’s Community & Customer Management liaison Jacques Afonso. While the commission worked with residents to gather data to help National Grid engineers fix that problem, the question of timely support during outages was raised. And the idea of the truck being housed on Prudence Island was born.

“The significance of this commitment by National Grid to position as valuable a resource as a dedicated line truck to support our isolated community cannot be overstated,” Aldrich said.

Aldrich noted there are power issues for the fifty or so winter residents. A combination of an aging infrastructure and the rerouting of a distribution leg spanning a salt marsh have made for unique challenges. Challenges that National Grid has met, according to Aldrich.

“This is corporate community service at its finest,” Aldrich said. “We are indebted to the great work that Jacques Afonso is doing on our behalf.”







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