$98 million substation would ensure electrical supply reliability and support town's climate goals – Hingham Anchor

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June 6, 2024 By Carol Britton Meyer
Tuesday’s well-attended joint Planning Board/Zoning Board of Appeals Zoom meeting provided an opportunity for residents to hear an update on Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant’s proposed $98 million Hingham Electrical Infrastructure Reliability Project (HEIRP).
This initiative is designed to ensure the long-term reliability of Hingham’s electrical supply and to help meet the town’s climate goals.
The proposal coincides with the town’s climate action plan, which has a 2040 net zero goal, HMLP General Manager Thomas Morahan noted.
The meeting was part of the town’s informal review of HMLP’s  proposed new substation at the transfer station at 0 Hobart St.
“The start of the project is at least two years out,” Morahan said.
Known as Hobart II Substation, the proposed site abuts Hobart Street and the transfer station access road to the north; the Brewer Reservation conservation land to the east; the capped landfill to the south; and the transfer station to the west, with no direct residential abutters.
Minimal impacts to Hobart Street
Ridgewood Crossing resident Anne Fanton asked about any impacts to Brewer Reservation and Hobart Street, which she said features “a nice stretch of trees.”
Other than an additional structure on Hobart Street, there would be minimal impacts, Morahan said.
The cost of the project would be borne by HMLP ratepayers, Morahan explained, but recent rate increases and another planned for January 2025 “should cover the cost of the project moving forward.”
Howe Street resident Peter Healey asked if there were any opportunities for the town to be awarded federal grants to help pay for the project, but because HMLP’s electrical service is reliable, that’s unlikely, Morahan explained.  Any such grants would go to communities with reliability issues.
The proposed infrastructure includes a new tap station (to manage and distribute  electricity)  off Broad Street in Weymouth to be built and operated by Eversource; a 3.2-mile underground transmission line that will travel through Weymouth and Hingham; and the new enclosed substation to be constructed and operated by HMLP.
Electricity supply dependent on two overhead lines
The lighting plant currently obtains its entire supply of electricity via two overhead lines that feed into a single substation off Hobart Street.
In some locations, these two lines are located on single poles. According to HMLP officials, if severe weather or another contingency caused a double-circuit pole to fail, Hingham residents and businesses could be without power for a long period of time.
In addition, if one of the two lines is out of service for maintenance and the other line experiences an unexpected problem, the entire town could be left without power.
The line and two new stations would provide Hingham with a critical second source of power and bring HMLP into compliance with regional reliability standards.
Put simply, the new line would supplement the existing lines and could handle the town’s entire power supply needs should the existing overhead lines be taken out of service.
Because of the scope of the project, the entire HEIRP proposal is required to be reviewed and approved by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board.
Exemption will be sought
HMLP also plans to file a petition with the state over the next several weeks for an exemption from local zoning requirements in both Hingham and Weymouth in order to minimize the possibility of being subject to conflicting decisions from different towns and to reduce the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation, according to HMLP officials.
That said, HMLP is interested in input and recommendations offered by the Planning Board and ZBA,  as well as citizens,   related to the proposed substation and intends to present the Siting Board with this information.
A copy of HMLP’s April 12 submission to the planning and zoning boards is available at https://hingham-ma.gov/767/Applications-Pending.
This filing identifies construction and environmental impacts associated with building and  operating the proposed substation and HMLP’s plans to mitigate those impacts.
Go to http://heirp.com for more details and updates about the project and/or to provide feedback.
The land has not yet been conveyed from the Select Board to HMLP, which would require Town Meeting approval.
HMLP will work with the DPW to help mitigate any impacts to the transfer station.
Both boards have reviewed the proposal and will make recommendations, including conditions for the project, to the Select Board.
Other required permits and approvals include Department of Public Utilities review, Hingham and Weymouth Conservation Commision order of conditions, and a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection use permit.

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