South Street’s Super Substation is Powering Up Providence

By Jennifer Bray

Demolition to take down the old substation in Providence.

Transmission tower being taken down at the old substation in Providence.






View of the old and new substations seen from the pedestrian bridge in Providence.










Brick by brick a giant metal claw is tearing down a building that’s cleared the path to power up Providence.

The demolition of National Grid’s nearly 100-year-old substation at the corner of Eddy Street and Point Street should be finished at the beginning of November 2019.

And just a stone’s throw away from the old structure, National Grid’s newest substation is already up and running. Construction on this forward-thinking powerhouse began in March 2016.

“This substation allows us to continue to supply reliable electricity to the developing downtown Providence area,” said Nelson Antunes, the lead project manager for National Grid.

National Grid’s $90-million investment in the South Street Substation plays a critical role in bringing energy to the Rhode Island power grid. Without a transmission substation there is no electricity. It controls the flow of power into the grid. In the Northeast, National Grid operates almost 400 transmission substations sprinkled throughout New England and New York.

At South Street’s Substation, a beefy 27 circuit-array made up of 42 sets of cables supplies power to the city of Providence.  A standard substation is designed to supply power to an area using 6 circuits. This allows Providence to be powered up quickly along with the neighboring Olneyville, Dyer Street and Rochambeau substations.

One of the futuristic features of South Street Substation is the 60kA rated switchgear manufactured by Siemens which replaces the dated breakers and protection scheme in the old substation.   In addition, fiber-optic cables have been installed as a communication means between the new South Street Substation and other connecting substations. “Fiber-optic cables are better and more reliable protection scheme that is utilized in most new substations ” Antunes said.

This digitization also has three benefits. It reduces the overall operating cost of the substation, it’s faster and easier to build, and it manages flow settings in real time.

The new substation is more than brains and brawn. It’s also designed to blend in with the city vibe. Kite Architects of Providence designed the building that houses the substation. The stamped-concrete panels include detailing of interference waves in a homage to the physics of electricity. Vents, louvers and observation windows were also artfully placed to showcase the critical infrastructure contained within.

This super substation is allowing National Grid to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Providence and transform the Interstate 195 land.

“The South Street Substation allows us to supply existing and new electrical loads as a result of all of the new construction that is taking place in the Providence downtown area” Antunes said.

National Grid was able to work with the previous South Street Landing developer by letting them install the parking garage and the Urban Coastal Greenway on National Grid property. The Greenway which will be built within the next year, is another way that National Grid is giving back to the community by allowing the use of our property for community use.  The Urban coastal Greenway will run behind the substation from South Street, to the new Providence River Pedestrian Bridge.

That Bridge connects the east side of Providence to the Innovation district, with development standouts like the Wexford Innovation Center. That center is a $158 million commercial development project with an office building, a hotel and counts Brown University’s School of Professional Studies and the Cambridge Innovation Center among its tenants in the 191,000-square-foot office building.

“This is a great project and one of the biggest substations on the East Coast,” Antunes said.

The vast scope of work, from the complexity of the substation, working in a congested work zone due to other projects nearby, challenges due to the demolition of the old substation, to the many partners involved with the development of the downtown areahas made this the most challenging and rewarding project of Antunes’ career. “It’s been a great project to be a part of.”








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