|Groton Electric Light
|Groton Electric Light
| Isabel Bixby
||L. Bruce Clark
| CUSTOMER ACCOUNTS
| Robert Gould
| Michael McPartlan
Groton Electric Light Commission consists of
three members who are elected by the townspeople.
The terms are for three years and are staggered
so that one is filled each year. The commissioners
are the policy makers and authorize all major
expenditures. The commission meets once a month
in open session at the Electric Light Department
offices, Station Avenue. Meeting dates are set
as the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30
American Public Power Association
Northeast Public Power Association
Municipal Electric Association of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company
of the Manager
Submitted herewith, in accordance with the
requirements of the Department of Public Utilities
and Chapter 164 of the General Laws of Massachusetts,
is the 75th Annual Report of the Groton Electric
Light Department, for the year ending December
1983 marked the 75th anniversary of the
Groton Electric Light Department. In a separate
section of this report, you will find a chronicle
of the department's first three-quarters of
Like the previous 75 years, 1983 was a time
of growth, revitalization and service to residents
for the Groton Electric Light Department.
The number of customers connected to the
Groton system grew again in 1983, as 149 new
services were hooked up, 36 of them all-electric
homes. Energy consumption and peak demand
grew as well, reaching new record heights
The 1983 peak demand of 6,300 kilowatts
was up 11.5 percent over the 1982 peak, compared
to an increase in 1982 of only 4.2 percent.
On September 6, the system reached a record
summer peak demand of 5,175 kilowatts, which
was a 27 percent increase over 1982.
Energy purchases of 31,137,130 kilowatt-hours
were made during 1983, representing an increase
of 11 percent from the previous year. During
the same period, energy sales were up 10.3
percent, reaching a new high of 26,694,850
The monthly use of electricity by the average
residential customer increased by 2 percent
during 1983. At the same time, usage by customers
heating their homes with electricity was down
The conversion of mercury vapor streetlamps
to more efficient and brighter sodium vapor
lamps continued in 1983. By year's end, 678
sodium lamps had been installed.
The conversion of distribution lines from
2,400 volts to 13,800 volts also continued.
This program is beginning to pay off. Where
power losses through transmission were 11
to 13 percent five years ago, they are only
7 to 8 percent for the last few years, which
means lower costs and higher reliability.
By operating its own electric department,
the town of Groton saved between $55,000 and
$60,000 in 1983. This total represents the
electric department's $15,000 donation in
lieu of taxes, a $45,000 savings on street-lighting
costs and interest the town received on light
The Groton Electric Light Department's customer
and community service programs were another
highlight of 1983. This year, as in the past,
we offered off-peak electricity rates which
were used by 150 customers. We also continued
to work closely with the tree warden to remove
trees. In addition, as in past years, we strung
banners for fairs, church functions and civic
Through Mass-Save, 84 of the 93 requested
home energy audits were performed in 1983.
Of those performed, 77 were for single-family
homes and the remaining seven were for two-
to four-unit apartment buildings. Four percent
of the audited homes were heated with electricity,
58 percent with oil and 26 percent with natural
gas. The audit fee was waived for 10 elderly
Also in 1983, the New England Power Company
(NEPCO) completed a project to upgrade the
power lines that feed the town. This should
improve service and reduce outages. The work
was wholly funded by NEPCO.
During 1984, the electric department will
concentrate on the continued conversion of
the town's distribution lines and on long-term
power planning. As Groton continues to grow,
so will the need for electric power. Additional
and alternative sources of electricity will
have to be found.
The Municipal Light Board and the manager
wish to take this opportunity to thank all
the people of Groton and the town departments
and their employees for their sincere efforts
on the town's behalf.
Roger H. Beeltje Manager
Groton Electric light Department
of the Municipal Light Board
The report of the Manager as submitted by
him, with the certification of the Auditor,
is hereby approved by the Municipal Light
Board and constitutes its report to the Town.
Municipal Light Board
November 3, 1908, the town of Groton entered
the electric age.
On that day, three citizens were commissioned
"to investigate if a way can be found
to generate electricity, by water power or
otherwise, for lighting the town."
The committee, which consisted of Henry
K. Richards—often called the father
of the Groton Electric Light Department—Myron
P. Swallow and Frank F. Waters, went to work.
On March 20, 1909, they informed the voters
of Groton that "it would be perfectly
feasible for the town to light its streets
They recommended that, while the town should
erect its own poles and wire for street lighting
and to serve commercial customers, it should
not generate its own power. It would be less
expensive, the committee noted, to buy electricity
in large quantities from a nearby electric
That summer, on July 22, the voters agreed
with the findings of the committee, which
had grown to include two new members—John
H. Robbins and George H. Bixby. They told
the committee to do what was necessary "to
supply light, heat and power for municipal
use and for the use of the inhabitants of
With that action, the Groton Electric Light
Department was born. Before the year was out,
M.K. Kendall and Co. raised 450 poles, strung
25 miles of electrical cable and hung 125
street lamps—all for a grand total of
$17,860. Finally, on November 20, under the
direction of Walter F. Dodge, who had supervised
the construction and who later served as the
Department's manager until his retirement
in 1956, power from the Ayer Electric Light
Company flowed through the system and the
streets of Groton blazed with electric light
for the first time.
has been 75 years since that historic night.
The Groton Electric Light Department has grown
and changed in many ways.
There were only 25 customers served by the
original system. Over the years, as both electricity's
popularity and the population of Groton grew,
power lines were extended and new substations
built to meet the growing demand for power.
Today, electricity flows out over 93 miles
of distribution lines to the department's
As more and more customers joined the system,
rates dropped dramatically. For example, it
cost between 13 and 16 cents per kilowatt-hour
to light the streetlamps in 1909. By 1937,
the cost had fallen to between 4 and 6 cents.
Individual customers paid 16 cents for every
kilowatt-hour they used in 1909. They paid
only 3 cents in 1936.
Rates were not the only things that changed
in the early years of the department. Though
the department was created to provide street
lighting, the streetlights were only used
on moonless evenings at first and were not
left on all night. In 1916, the department
abandoned its "moonlight schedule"
and burned the lights every night, but they
were still extinguished promptly at 12:30
In 1917, while war raged in Europe, soldiers
were quartered in Ayer. The department left
the lights on until 3 a.m. "owing to
the large increase of people traveling, particularly
at night," but it was not until 1927
that the lights burned until dawn. Only for
two years since that year, during 1936 and
1937 when the lights were turned off at 1
a.m. to save $2,500 a year, have the streets
of Groton been dark at night.
One thing that has changed only slightly
over the years is Groton's conviction, based
on the recommendation of that early study
committee, that the department not be a power
generator, but a power purchaser. Twice in
the department's early years, Groton voters
rejected proposals to build a power plant
in town. While the department has maintained
that early conviction, today it is part owner
of various generating plants around New England,
some operating and some under construction.
So, indirectly at least, the Groton Electric
Light Department generates some of the power
its customers use.
its inception, the Groton Electric Light Department
has worked hard to bring customers reliable
electric service as efficiently as possible.
In fact, in the department's early years,
consultants twice concluded that the department's
management was beyond reproach. In 1925, Don
C.G. Linnell, an engineer, was hired by the
light commissioners after the town's finance
committee suggested that the light department
could offer the same services for less money
with more conservative management.
"The remarkable economy shown in the
conduct of the affairs of the Lighting Department,"
Linnell wrote to manager Dodge after looking
into the construction, operation and management
of the plant, "has been more forcibly
impressed upon me during the past three months."
In 1937, the manager and commissioners again
hired a consultant to study the department
and again the report was glowing. Here is
what that second consultant concluded:
Comparing the Groton Municipal Electric Plant
with other plants in the state and elsewhere,
irrespective of size, I do not hesitate to
say that it is of such high character in every
way that even one not skilled in the construction
and maintenance of electric distribution plants
would at once realize the manner in which
the Groton plant has been built, enlarged
and maintained during its 27 years of existence.
The Groton department has proven its efficiency
in handling the day-to-day business affairs
and the emergencies that an electric utility
encounters. Over the years, Groton has been
the victim of snow, ice, lightning, high winds
and fire. One of the most devastating natural
disasters was a hurricane that hit the region
in 1938. The storm caused considerable damage
to Groton's electrical distribution system.
Though reconstruction began immediately after
the storm, it was 39 days before power was
restored to all customers.
In 1959, disaster struck again when lightning
hit a department warehouse on Whiting Avenue.
The resulting fire destroyed the building,
a truck and $20,000 worth of supplies. But,
by the next year, the warehouse and garage
had been rebuilt on a new site near the old
railroad station property.
its most recent quarter century, the department
has expanded and modernized.
In 1964, the light department enlarged its
office building and four years later built
a new substation to accommodate the increasing
load in the Boston Road area. Modernization
of the department's billing system began in
1969 when a machine replaced handwritten bills.
Billing and record keeping were computerized
in 1977. This innovation proved so successful
that a second computer was purchased in 1979.
The department's equipment has also been
upgraded in recent years. An auger truck,
used to dig holes, was purchased in 1971.
The department's first bucket truck, an essential
tool for repairing and maintaining power lines,
was acquired in 1971. It replaced a ladder
truck which had served Groton for 23 years.
Two new generations of streetlights have
replaced the original incandescent lamps that
lit Groton's streets. Mercury vapor lights,
which provide three times as much light as
incandescent lamps, were first installed in
1953. Between 1981 and 1983, the department
replaced all the lamps with high-pressure
sodium lights, which provide still more illumination
for less money.
One of the most significant modernizations
in recent years was the construction of a
new, centralized substation on Lowell Road.
The station, which was built with a $588,000
bond issue, was completed in 1975. Eventually
the new substation will replace all other
Groton substations, serving as the central
distribution point for all of the town's electricity.
The ingenuity of this approach won an award
in 1977 from the American Public Power Association,
which called the substation an "outstanding
example of excellence in utility design."
economy and self-sufficiency. These have always
been the three primary objectives of the Groton
Electric Light Department.
To increase the reliability of the electric
system, the department petitioned the New
England Power Company (NEPCO) to upgrade the
transmission lines bringing power to the town.
In 1982, after a year of negotiations, NEPCO
agreed to spend $2 million to improve its
lines. The results of the work, completed
in 1983, are fewer outages and better electric
service for Groton customers.
More economical service is the goal of an
on-going project begun in 1976 that will eventually
see all of the town's distribution lines converted
from 2,400 volts to 13,800 volts. The project,
which will take two to three more years to
complete, will reduce the loss of power when
electricity is distributed to homes and businesses.
In the last decade, the Groton Electric
Light Department has also taken a number of
steps to increase its self-sufficiency. For
example, in 1975 it joined the New England
Power Pool (NEPOOL), a consortium of nearly
all of New England's electric utilities.
Membership in the power pool has helped
Groton save money in many ways. For example,
the pool dispatches the least expensive power
available to all of its members. But, more
importantly, by joining the pool, the Groton
electric department was able to end its all-requirements
contracts with NEPCO, through which it had
previously purchased all of its energy. Now,
the department can pick and choose among various
energy sources available in the region to
find the most economical ones obtainable.
While Groton still buys some of its electricity
from NEPCO, the light department currently
fills most of its power needs through contracts
for electricity from specific power plants.
This approach to meeting its customers' demand
for electricity has saved a great deal of
Saving money was on the minds of town residents
when they voted in 1976 to join with many
other of the state's municipal electric departments
in becoming members of the Massachusetts Municipal
Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC). This "joint-action
agency" acquires power in bulk for its
members, helping them obtain power at the
best possible prices. Through MMWEC, Groton
is already receiving power from MMWEC's modern
Stony Brook plants and from a very efficient
nuclear power plant in Canada. In the future,
power from the Millstone Unit No. 3 in Connecticut
and the Seabrook Unit No. 1 in New Hampshire
will serve Groton residents.
While the Groton electric department helps
obtain the most economical and reliable power
available, it also helps its customers use
that power efficiently. In 1980, Groton joined
Mass-Save, a consortium of Massachusetts'
gas and electric utilities that performs energy
conservation audits of individual homes. So
far, around 140 audits have been performed
Providing reliable and economical power
to Groton's electric consumers has been the
job of Groton's electric department since
it was founded in 1909. For these past 75
years the department has worked hard to do
that job in the best way possible and to serve
its customers well. For, as a municipal electric
department, the Groton Electric Light Department
is owned and operated by its customers. The
dedication, persistence and innovation that
have built this department and have seen it
through three-quarters of a century will remain
strong as it faces the demands of the next
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