Standing the test of time

Inside the Sandy Point HVDC Facility

Inside the Sandy Point HVDC Facility

Tucked away down a rural road in central MA, the Sandy Pond High-Voltage Direct-Current (HVDC) facility has quietly operated for 25 years – and that’s the way they like it, according to three employees who were there when the facility opened back in 1990.

That’s because the site, which connects a 450 kilovolt DC overhead transmission line from a hydro energy source in Quebec, has been operating safely and reliably all those years, achieving a reliability rating of close to 99.3%.

Although the Sandy Pond facility is not often at the forefront of National Grid news, the HVDC site and its staff are getting some well-deserved attention as it marked its 25th year in operation on November 1. Over the course of 25 years it has brought 184,252,943 megawatts of clean hydro power into the region.  That’s a lot!

Manager Todd Johnson uses a map to explain the HVDC transmission route

Manager Todd Johnson uses a map to explain the HVDC transmission route

To celebrate the anniversary, officials from ABB, a world leader in HVDC technology that helped us design the HVDC facility, were on hand recently for a recognition event honoring the facility’s employees and reflecting on 25 years of operation. The system that Sandy Pond operates within was innovative at the time, they said, and continues to be innovative today. It’s one of only a couple HVDC systems in the world that has more than two connections to the AC power grid.

The HVDC system begins at a massive hydroelectric facility in far northern Quebec, where power is converted into DC current, which limits energy loss over long distances. The HVDC line then runs through a second facility closer to Montreal, before entering the Sandy Pond facility where the voltage is converted back into AC current and sent into our transmission system.  From there, power goes to serve customers of some 35 joint owners including National Grid, Eversource and several municipal electric companies.   It’s a 960-mile journey one way.

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(At the celebration event, a photo slideshow captured scenes from the building of Sandy Pond and gave employees a chance to talk about all that has changed, and all that has not changed, over those years)

Russell Marquis, Dennis Reebel, and John Young– they’ve worked at Sandy Pond for 25 years

l to r: Russell Marquis, Dennis Reebel, and John Young– they’ve worked at Sandy Pond for 25 years

“This facility has really stood the test of time,” said Vice President of Control Centers John Spink at the event. “You should all feel proud about the role you’ve played in running it.”

“This has been a good career,” said John Young, one of the three employees who has worked at Sandy Pond for 25 years. “There is a lot of specialized equipment and it makes things interesting.”

“I never thought I’d be here for 25 years, but here I am!” said Russell Marquis, who has also worked at the site for two and a half decades.  He commented that working with such a small crew of people over so many years has allowed the team to develop deep working relationships with one another. The entire room had a chuckle when Todd Johnson, manager of the site, showed a slide of how the three employees looked 25 years ago when they were first hired.

The Ayer Fire Department and the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank received a check for $2,500 each

The Ayer Fire Department and the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank received a check for $2,500 each

One thing that has not changed in 25 years is the active role that crew members at the site play with local community organizations. As part of the celebration, National Grid donated $2,500 to two local charities in their honor. It was a great way to recognize the teamwork and dedication that has led to 25 years of successful operation at Sandy Pond.

Sandy Pond contributes to our Connect21 strategy to bring clean, affordable energy to New England. In a given year, Sandy Pond can import up to 5,000 gigawatt hours of zero-carbon electricity into New England. Consider the environmental comparisons:

An oil-fired power plant delivering the same amount of electricity would burn 3,036,800 barrels of oil and emit the following amounts of greenhouse gases:

  • 12,175 tons of sulfur dioxide
  • 3,475,000 tons of carbon dioxide
  • 3,575 tons of nitrogen oxide

A natural gas power plant would consume 40,000 MMcf (million cubic ft)  of natural gas and would emit the following:

  • 20 tons of sulfur dioxide
  • 2,360,000 tons of carbon dioxide
  • 2,080 tons of nitrogen oxide

To read the press release about Sandy Pond’s 25th anniversary, click here.

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