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Cape Vincent farm waiting for National Grid to power up new milking parlor

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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CAPE VINCENT — A new milking parlor with 48 stalls at Woods Farm was showcased during an open house last week. But the celebration for the $1.5 million expansion project was scheduled during daylight hours, because the farm is waiting for National Grid to turn on the parlor’s electricity.
The milking parlor sits about 175 feet away from the three-phase power line it will be connected to, which runs along County Road 9. A lateral underground line will be installed by National Grid to do so, but the company said it will not do that until it is satisfied with the plan.
Running the electric service has taken much longer than was expected by co-owners Lyle J. Wood and Scott F. Bourcy, who planned to launch the milking parlor May 1. They started the project with National Grid in February, but unanticipated requirements from the energy company repeatedly pushed back the construction date.
“Our plan was to get the cows in there before we did spring work, but (National Grid) just gave us delay after delay,” Mr. Wood said. “It sets us back about $2,000 a day until we get cows milking in there.”
Mr. Wood recently bought 120 cows in Columbus, Ohio, expanding the farm’s herd to 900. The farm’s cattle barn — which was expanded in the fall — has enough room to house all the cows. But the problem is, the cows can’t be milked without the new parlor in operation. Time is now of the essence, because the farmers are losing milk revenue they were counting on.
National Grid isn’t expected to finish the project until late July, Mr. Wood said. Because he can’t afford to wait that long, a generator that runs on diesel fuel will soon be installed as a temporary power source.
“It’s going to cost us $375 a day in fuel to run,” he said.
Requirements from National Grid for the project were more complex than anticipated by Mr. Wood and the LaFargeville general contractor leading the project. A consultant from National Grid originally told them the milking parlor needed to be separated from an old barn it connects with, for example, because the barn can’t access the same three-phase power source. Only the new milking parlor — and any other future buildings constructed — can use three-phase power.
“Then, they told us we could build a fire wall between the buildings,” Mr. Wood said. “But they called Jefferson County and found out agriculture operations are exempt.”
To solve the dilemma, Mr. Wood agreed to build another entrance at the barn through which a separate two-phase power line will be redirected.
Mr. Wood was also surprised by the amount of documentation National Grid needed for the project. He plans to build another barn to house 300 more head of cattle in the next year, for example, and the utility wanted all of the particulars for that project.
“They said they needed to know exactly how big it’s going to be and how much power we’re going to draw,” Mr. Wood said. “So I say, ‘I’m going to put the barn up next year, but I don’t know how big it’s going to be.’ ... We might not build it next year.”
National Grid spokeswoman Virginia J. Limmiatis said the project delays at Woods Farm were caused by the submission of incomplete information and design flaws.
“In the case of Mr. Wood, the work we are doing is directly with an electrician working on his behalf,” Mrs. Limmiatis said. “The electrician is responsible for understanding what the requirements are, (but) there have been lots of conversations about what documentation is needed. We rely on that representative to supply information to us. If they don’t, the project is delayed.”
Though Mr. Wood plans to apply for a $50,000 grant from National Grid’s 3-Phase Power Incentive Program, Mrs. Limmiatis said the project isn’t eligible because the property is already located close to a three-phase power line.
“Our economic development grant is to help owners of land in agrarian communities that don’t have it,” she said.

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