SSC-Natick Press ReleaseU.S. Army Soldier Systems
Public Affairs Office
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Date: August 19, 2008
up: Upgrade of electrical distribution system increases reliability
Left, a view looking north on Prussman Ave. at the U.S. Army
Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., shows the outdated
utility poles that were removed as part of an $8.5 million
upgrade and privatization of the high voltage electrical
distribution system. Right, the same view today.
Click for Larger Photo
NATICK, Mass. -- In
June 2008, the upgrade of the high voltage electrical distribution
system at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) here was
A contract for $8.5 million to upgrade and privatize the ownership,
operation and maintenance of the system had been awarded to the
NSTAR Electric Company from the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC)
in September 2006.
“This system replaces a 50-year-old system that had reached the end
of its life,” said Dave Duncan, engineer and chief of SSC's
Engineering Division, Directorate of Public Works (DPW). “Based on
several reports, if something had not been done, the system would
have had a catastrophic failure. It was a happy day in 2006 when the
contract was awarded.”
The work involved the demolition of 27 existing transformers and
high voltage switches throughout the installation.
“With the new system all transformers will be outside the
buildings,” said Duncan. “This will improve safety for the
The old overhead distribution system of wooden poles and aerial
cables was also demolished. All underground cable was replaced and
the new system is a state-of-the-art looped system to every building
on the installation.
Duncan said the new system “significantly increases power
reliability at each building.”
The process had a lot of stops and starts, explained Duncan, who
said he remembered attending a utility privatization meeting as far
back as 1998.
We worked through the DESC, which performs the contracting portion
of privatization effort for the U.S. Army, he continued. Through the
DESC, we were able to work with a private contractor and come up
with a concept design and economic analysis, and send out a proposal
to see if any utility company was interested. However, because most
of the Army systems were in need of significant work, and because
the Army had stringent requirements, most companies did not see any
benefit to taking the task on.
Seeing the value of privatization, Congress stepped in and began
setting aside funds for utility privatization projects. In 2006, SSC
received funding towards this project and NSTAR, with its winning
bid, agreed to perform the system-wide upgrade and to become the new
"owner" of the system.
In addition to the safety and reliability benefits, another plus
that Duncan mentioned is that it takes the Army out of the business
of ownership and maintenance for utilities. “We have a
state-of-the-art system that NSTAR owns, operates and maintains,” he
The SSC is also now in compliance with Department of Defense Reform
Initiative Directive (DRID) #49: Privatizing Utility Systems. This
DRID was a directive under then Secretary of Defense William Cohen,
who believed the military services should be doing what they do
best, rather than dealing with utility problems.
Another $250,000 has just been secured by SSC's DPW as part of this
existing privatization contract to replace the seven remaining
50-year-old indoor switchboards.