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Hilltop NJ Large PSEG Electrical Switching Substation Construction is Underway

Hilltop NJ Large PSEG Electrical Switching Substation Construction is Underway
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Construction has been underway the last few months in the Hilltop section of Gloucester Township on a new PSE&G electrical switching substation. It is located on the Black Horse Pike directly next to Hilltop Creamery. (Hilltop Creamery is unaffected by this project and is still open daily!)

The project site is L-shaped and also connects to Oak Ave, which is a side-street off of the Black Horse Pike. The site wraps around a few other properties which are situated at or near the corner of Oak and the Pike.

The Gloucester Township Health and Fitness trail is along the back edge of the PSE&G property (Blackwood Railroad Trail)

Most of the electrical switching equipment and controls will be housed inside 2 newly constructed buildings. Some exterior electrical equipment will be positioned outside… the electricity has to make its way into the buildings somehow!

Thought has been put into the design of these buildings to make them more attractive, and engineering documents refer to a coloring scheme similar to the Gloucester Premium Outlets.

PSE&G Hilltop Exterior Views and Style Guide. Referenced color scheme similar to the Gloucester Outlets

To make room for the switching substation development, two homes on the dead-end segment of Maple Ave were purchased and demolished. This West end short segment of Maple Ave will not exist when the project is completed.

PSE&G previously had a smaller facility at this property which was decommissioned and dismantled in 2011.

It’s location is well suited to the needs of this new substation as the Grenloch Branch Transmission lines are already located behind the property, running along the bike path trail (formerly train tracks)

PSE&G estimates the Hilltop substation will be in-service by December 2023, with landscaping, permanent decorative fence installation and final restoration completed by the summer of 2024. 

This project is part of a statewide effort for PSE&G to significantly upgrade power distribution in the state “69kV Statewide Initiative”

Over the last several decades, New Jersey has experienced tremendous commercial and residential growth. As businesses and residents use more electricity, it is our responsibility to reinforce, upgrade, and in many cases replace, our electric transmission infrastructure to keep up with that demand. In order to meet existing electric needs, and be better prepared for Sandy-like storms, PSE&G is re-wiring its local power system to create the electric infrastructure of the future by increasing system capacity, enhancing system reliability, and providing greater system redundancy for our customers

PSE&G 69kV Statewide Initiative

In another Fact-Sheet page PSE&G explains “69kV”

Throughout PSE&G service territory, PSE&G infrastructure upgrades include the addition of a 69kV network that will alleviate the demand on the existing 26kV network. These projects will install 69kV circuits connecting stations to each other.

PSE&G 69kV FactSheet
PSE&G Hilltop: Artist rendering of the completed site, seen from the Black Horse Pike.

PSE&G Hilltop Switching Substation Need

Electrical transmissions in our region are regulated by the PJM Interconnection RTO, which covers 13 states and the District of Columbia.

In 2017 PJM approved $1 Billion dollars in electrical system upgrades across 8 different energy companies.

Specific to the Hilltop switching substation, it is part of $98 million dollar segment to upgrade switching, load and connections at Hilltop to Runnemede and Woodbury switching substations.

Woodbury also saw a large upgrade to 69kV.

And those super tall steel electrical poles which have been installed around our area? They are all part of this Statewide 69kV project to transmit the power from one substation to another.

Specific to the need for this upgrade, a 2017 article from summarizes the changes:

The estimated $98m project in the PSEG Transmission Zone involves building a new 230/69-kV switching station at Hilltop utilizing the PSE&G property and the K-2237 230-kV line; building a new line between Hilltop and Woodbury 69-kV, providing the third supply; and converting Runnemede’s straight bus to a ring bus (eliminating the bus fault violation) and building a 69-kV line from Hilltop to Runnemede 69-kV. Oct 2017

The TransmissionHub article also goes on to describe additional reasons why this effort is needed

Discussing the problem that the project would solve, the update noted that the Runnemede 69-kV substation is supplied by only two 69-kV lines; load exceeds 46 MW. One of the lines has portions of the circuit fed by underground cable that would take longer than 24 hours to restore during an outage. In addition, the update added, a breaker failure on the Runnemede 69-kV bus would result in the loss of both 69-kV supply lines and a complete substation shutdown, interrupting more than 11,000 customers. As a result, there is a need to enhance the station design and provide a third source to the Runnemede station. Oct 2017

A PSE&G Reliability Review from 2017 shows the flow of electricity along this segment. With Gloucester switching substation at the North end, the lines move down two directions;

  • Deptford and Woodbury
  • Runnemede and Hilltop

Also interesting to see the connections to the two “Trash to Steam” generation plants in Camden and Eagle Point Westville

PSE&G transmission lines in the interconnected Hilltop project area.

PSE&G Hilltop What Are They Building?

In our morning visit just last week, the project site was VERY active with development taking place in all sections of the property. Dozens of workers were on site.

In the rear corner a crane and pile driving apparatus were setup installing large pipes into the ground (concrete forms?), and closer to the front of the property foundations were being built to support the 2 buildings to be developed as well as exterior electrical components.

PSE&G in their project sheet does call out that some temporary construction noise and vibrations would be experienced. Last week Facebook town groups have several complaints from area residents regarding noise and vibrations related to pile driving, but it was then reported that portion of the project was completed.

The core project consists of two buildings, with the front building being developed in an “L” shape, and supporting two different but related functions. Essentially that front single building appears to be two connected buildings.

PSE&G Hilltop switching substation site plan.

The project does include entrances on both the Black Horse Pike and Oak Ave.

PSE&G Hilltop foundation work of the front L-shaped building.

The Oak Ave side street is primarily residential, and project engineers provided renderings of how the project site will look from Oak, when completed.

PSE&G new switching substation at Hilltop, view from Oak Ave (Artist rendering)

The Oak Ave rendering above gives a clear depiction of a small amount of exterior electrical equipment on the right (through the bushes), and on the left we can see a steel structure supporting wires that will connect to the existing high-voltage lines which run along the Health & Fitness bike path trail (which can be seen in the far left)

I could be wrong on this… but I think the pile-driving taking place (which disturbed residents) at the back of the property was for that tall exterior steel A-frame (wire) support structure at the back of the property.

Crane and pile driver at the back of the PSE&G Hilltop Switching Substation project.
PSE&G Hilltop Substation construction taking place next to Hilltop Creamery (Open All Year Long!)

PSE&G 69kV Switching Substation
97 Oak Ave
Hilltop Gloucester Township