GLENS FALLS — Finch Paper officials say their operations are being negatively affected by very short-duration power outages that can disrupt plant equipment.
“When we have an interruption, even for a few milliseconds, that pulp mill is down and it’s down for a long time,” said Finch Chief Financial Officer Alex Rotolo at an EDC Warren County meeting last week.
Rotolo said the brownouts could cause a chemical reaction in the paper-making process that cannot be stopped.
National Grid is attempting to work with Finch on a solution, but Rotolo said they are extremely expensive.
“It’s hard for us to make investments alone in infrastructure outside of our mill,” he said.
Rotolo said one option is to create another substation so if there is a power interruption, the other lines would be feeding into the plant as well.
Rotolo said the plant has improved the electrical system on its end. Finch Paper has even looked at buying a massive generator.
“It’s many megawatts that we need to turn on immediately, which is also not feasible,” he said.
Rotolo said Finch Paper has been working quietly behind the scenes to come up with a solution for about a year and a half. The paper company is getting impatient and now becoming vocal and working with other local businesses.
Reliable electricity is important for the local economy, according to Rotolo. The infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Something as simple as a tree coming down and touching line could knock out power to a wide swath of the area, he said.
“We need to reduce the amount of single line exposure to the area,” he said.
National Grid is not alone. Jim Siplon, chief operating officer of Just Beverages, said his company is also affected.
“We see those micro outages quite a bit,” he said. “It causes our machinery to shut down and we generally don’t see all the issues for 48 hours.”
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SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy said the college has had similar electrical issues.
“We had an outage in August and we’re still recovering from it,” she said.
Glens Falls Hospital was trying to work with National Grid to obtain additional power, as part of the expansion at the campus at 14 Hudson Ave. and the parking garage, according to Mitch Amado, senior vice president and chief financial officer.
“We’re having to foot the bill on a whole substation on our property,” he said.
Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said Great Escape was having the same problem with short-term outages.
Strough suggested that Rotolo talk to the Public Service Commission and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
EDC board member Judy Calogero suggested that Finch Paper officials meet with Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury. Colagero added that maybe a special EDC committee could work on the issue.
EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew said there is a lack of capacity in the whole area including Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.
There is also a supply issue with natural gas and not allowing additional pipelines to be constructed, Bartholomew said.
National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said in an email that the utility company is aware of a few outages that have affected Finch Paper. There were two incidents in July. In one instance, someone nearby was doing some personal tree trimming and a tree hit one of National Grid’s lines. It did not cause an outage, but it affected power quality. The second instance was an outage in July caused by a storm and lightning strike.
There was another outage on Aug. 26 when a dead tree fell on a nearby line, according to Stella.
“We believe we have had an excellent record of power supply to Finch Paper for several years and these isolated incidents were caused by outside forces,” he said in an email.
“Finch is among a unique group of customers for National Grid in that they operate equipment that is more sensitive to slight power supply changes that other customers may not see. We are working with Finch Paper to help them as they strengthen their own electric system and explore other possibilities in the future to further protect our system from additional damage and power fluctuations,” Stella added.