Bedford Infrastructure –  Let there be Light

March 27, 2023

Welcome to our series, “Bedford Infrastructure.”  Infrastructure is one of those things you just expect to…work. When it’s not working is really the only time most people even think of it. You turn the faucet, flip a light switch, flush the toilet – it all works! When it doesn’t, we have a problem!

Did you ever stop and think about what it takes to make this all happen? To turn a faucet in your house and get clean water from a pipe is amazing by any stretch of the imagination. Where does our gas and electricity come from and how does it get here? Being online, how does that happen? 

That’s what this series is all about.

Last time, we looked at water.

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Next up, Flip the Switch – Electric Power!

Eversource provides Bedford’s electric power. Eversource is a distributor of electricity and does not produce any electricity itself. I talked with Chris McKinnon from Eversource Media Relations, who wanted to make it clear that Eversource does not own generating plants. They buy electricity on the wholesale market for their basic service customers every six months in accordance with state regulations. They do not earn a profit on the supply price — customers only pay what Eversource pays to electric generators on their behalf. The most recent supply rate change was on January 1 and the next will happen on July 1. Eversource makes their money on the delivery of the electricity.

In Bedford, there are 5,312 residential customers and 804 non-residential customers served. There are also approximately 143 miles of primary distribution lines with zero transmission lines passing through Bedford. 

Bedford also has 383 solar projects in town with a total capacity installed of 5,179 kWac (kWac means the electric power, in kilowatts, associated with the alternating current output …i.e. putting electricity back into the grid). 

Although electric use varies greatly with individual use, the average residential electric use was 600 kWh/month. That is lower than for most of Massachusetts residential customers whose monthly average is 841 kWh. Nationally, the average is 886 kWh per month.  

Eversource Sample Bill

Electricity in Bedford History

The electrification of Bedford started like most communities with the town opting to install electric street lights. In Bedford, this happened in 1905 when the town installed three miles of lighting with 63 street lights. As noted in the Annual Report, the town was quite proud of its new lights. 

“NEW SYSTEM OF STREET LIGHTING.

One of the most notable improvements of the year was the introduction of electricity for lighting the village streets. The lighting system includes 63 lights, covering three miles of streets, and has been in operation since July 1st. The advantages of a modern system of lighting are generally appreciated by our citizens, and it is no idle boast to say that Bedford is now one of the best lighted villages in Massachusetts. The Town has a five-year contract with the Lexington Gas & Electric Company for maintaining the system at $16.50 per light per year.”Town of Bedford Annual Report 1905

Where does the Electricity come from?

Eversource buys their electricity from the grid. You hear so much about the “grid,” I thought it might be useful to try to explain the U.S. grid.  

The Grid

The US power grid consists of 11,000 power plants, 3,000 utilities, and more than two million miles of power lines. In reality, there are three separate U.S. grids, or self-contained interconnections of power production and transmission. These are the Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnections. The three basic components are: Generation (power plants, solar, wind, etc.); Transmission (those tall high voltage wires used to carry electricity over many miles to substations that convert electricity to lower voltages); then, Distribution lines that carry it to homes and businesses.

Power generators produce electricity and then put it on the grid through high voltage transmission lines.  Distributors then buy that electricity and step the voltage down and distribute that electricity through the wires you see on the streets in Bedford. The current in those wires is alternating current (AC) and can travel in different directions. This ability to travel both ways allows residents with solar panels to add power back into the grid. This flexibility also allows power to be rerouted in case of disruption, allowing many fewer people to be affected when there is disruption.  

What’s on the pole:

Here’s a graphic explaining what is on the pole on the street

American Electric Power

Where Does the Power Come From?

New England contains approximately 350 generators that have around 31,000 megawatts of generating capacity. Power is routed along more than 8,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that connect the region to neighboring power systems in the U.S. and Eastern Canada.

The percentage of the New England Grid’s power produced by natural gas has more than tripled over the past 15 years, from 15 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2023.  The percentages change daily due to several factors.  

Wind, solar, and other renewable resources are a small, but growing part of the region’s energy mix.  Currently, about 10 percent of the energy produced in New England comes from renewables. 

Here is a snapshot breaking down where energy is coming from for March 23.

ISO New England

Community Aggregation in Bedford 

Bedford purchases electricity in bulk from a competitive supplier on behalf of the residents and businesses within the community. Residents then have a choice as to what they choose as to how their electricity is produced. Currently, Bedford Community Aggregation has four choices available for residents 

More information on Bedford Community Aggregation can be found here: BedfordCCA: https://bedfordcca.com/

Next up: The Sewer System

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Barbara Aldorisio
April 5, 2023 4:24 pm

Very, very interesting. Thank You for this information. Babs

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