Blackouts Plague Wildwood, NJ — What Happens Next Summer?
WILDWOOD — Atlantic City Electric is making big upgrades after a series of power outages over the summer in the Wildwoods have left people wondering if its electric grid can't keep up with the island's growing power needs.
The Five Mile Island sees around 9 million visitors every year, allowing the Wildwoods to claim itself as the number one family resort at the Jersey Shore. Most go during the summer months and stay at one of 11,000 accommodations like hotels, motels, townhouses, and condos.
Tourism spending in the Wildwoods rose to $1.9 billion in 2022, a more than 10% increase from 2021, reported New Jersey Business Magazine. But the high volume of visitors and rapid growth could also be taking a toll on the island's power grid.
After a third power outage in August, then-Mayor Pete Byron took to social media to blame the city's aging electric grid. He said it was local utility Atlantic City Electric's responsibility to update the city's infrastructure to keep up with "new construction and modern technology."
In response to the outages, ACE is investing the money and manpower to stop outages next summer, said spokesman Frank Tedesco.
"While we can't prevent every outage from occurring, we want to assure our customers that we are continuing proactive infrastructure upgrades across our system every day to help prevent those outages that can be prevented," Tedesco said.
Work underway at Wildwood substation
The first major outage on July 7 knocked out power to the entire island or around 24,000 customers. A fire at the substation on Lakeview Avenue left traffic lights, gas pumps, and air conditioners useless. For most, power was restored within nine hours.
Then riders on the Ferris wheel and other amusement rides at Morey's Piers were stuck in two separate outages in August. Both outages were caused by downed wires at the intersection of East Schellenger and Pacific Avenues.
Each of the outages in August took under three hours to fix but major work at the substation could take until the end of this year, according to Tedesco. Other upgrades could take through the end of next year.
The utility is replacing one of three transformers at the Lake Avenue substation. Underground cables leading to another transformer are also being replaced. Crews are also installing new switch gear, which controls energy flow at the substation, and making other general network upgrades.
Throughout the island, ACE is upgrading power lines to support equipment to automatically detect issues. Radio frequency will also be used to identify issues so other parts of the grid can be upgraded as needed.
"We're working through the issues we've had, and we have a good plan in place to not only improve reliability now but through the summer months and into the future," Tedesco said.
Can the substation handle Wildwood's power demands?
The cause of the substation fire in July was unrelated to the other two outages, according to Tedesco.
While the fire was "unusual," it was not a result of the substation being unable to meet the energy demands through the island.
"The substation in its current state has numerous redundancies in place, including three transformers which will not only meet but exceed the current and future energy needs for the Wildwood," Tedesco said.
How much will these upgrades cost?
When asked how much it would cost to make all these upgrades to the power grid in response to the outages, Tedesco said the company didn't yet have an estimate. He said the company invests millions each year in making these infrastructure improvements.
It's unclear whether taxpayers or ratepayers would be asked to offset the costs.
"So, yet to be determined how these grid investments to the Wildwoods would be recovered at this time, but this is part of our ongoing investments that we make not only in the Wildwoods but throughout our entire service area," Tedesco said.
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