1990s: New space, new services

After three years of planning and construction, the Churchill substation was completed in the spring of 1990, just in time to handle the summer peak demand for electricity. The substation, named in honor of William C. Churchill, a retired 42-year BELD employee, was built to improve reliability of electric service, especially in the northern area of town.

A conversion project at the Potter II generating station was also completed in 1990, allowing it to use either oil or natural gas as its fuel source depending on availability and price. This improvement to the unit was aimed at saving customers money while reducing the amount of plant emissions. In similar cost-saving efforts, in 1991 all town buildings were retrofitted with energy-efficient lighting, and BELD employees completed the installation of sodium vapor street lights throughout town. Later, in 1997, BELD helped form Energy New England, which helps regional municipal utilities manage power supply costs for all its customers.

1990The mid '90s brought some significant changes for BELD, as the utility staff outgrew its original facility and realized the need for additional space. The original Allen Street generating plant was demolished in 1993, and construction of a new $1 million operations center was completed just ½-mile to the north off Quincy Avenue in 1994. It wasn't until 1996, however, that the new building housing office staff was completed next door at 150 Potter Road.

As electric utility restructuring loomed later in the decade, BELD officials turned their attention to new services. In 1998, BELD completed its Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) network for use in automated system monitoring and meter reading. While those projects remained in the testing phase, the utility launched BELD.net—the town's first high-speed broadband Internet service—in 1999.

In 1999, BELD became the nation's first municipal utility to recover methane from a landfill and use it to power a fuel cell. And in an event reminiscent of Potter's continued power production during the Blackout of 1965, BELD staff orchestrated a successful black start of the plant in preparation for Y2K.

1990With about 1,500 Internet customers solely from word-of-mouth advertising, BELD staff looked to expand the offerings from its HFC network. In 2000, a cable television plan and $3.5 million bond issue were approved at Town meeting. State-of-the-art digital cable service was launched before the end of that year, and by the end of 2001, BELD was serving 4,000 cable and nearly 3,000 Internet customers.

 

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