October 8, 2014

Underground Champlain Hudson Express Receives Presidential Permit

The developers of a 1000MW buried transmission line between Quebec and New York City announced that their project, the Champlain Hudson Power Express, was granted a needed Presidential Permit. The 331-mile line will include portions submerged under Lake Champlain and sections buried underground.

The project, proposed in partnership with Hydro-Quebec, was originally conceived as an overhead transmission line. That concept ran into opposition, leading developer TDI to propose instead the underground alternative.

Northern Pass, the proposed 1200MW overhead transmission line, would also need a Presidential Permit to cross the international boundary. Northern Pass has been encouraged to bury its line along existing transportation corridors in New Hampshire and Vermont using modern transmission technology.

You can read TDI's press release about the Champlain Hudson Power Express Presidential Permit

September 16, 2014

NEPGA: Ratepayer $ Misused by PSNH in Supporting Northern Pass

The New England Power Generators Association filed a petition with the NH Public Utilities Commission, asking the PUC to address the relationship between Public Service Company of NH and Northern Pass.

“There is a serious misuse of ratepayer dollars in how PSNH is supporting the Northern Pass project,
" said Dan Dolan, president of NEPGA. "NEPGA believes the PUC must act to protect ratepayers and ensure a level competitive playing field.” Dolan added, “The facts are clear. PSNH is a rate-regulated distribution company,  but ratepayers’ resources have been used to support a private, merchant transmission project."

NHPR's Sam Evans-Brown reports on the story here. Or you can read the NEPGA press release.

September 5, 2014

Transforming the Electric Grid

While the existing electricity grid, with its endless string of poles and wires, may have served the country well during the 20th century, it’s become incredible costly to maintain in the 21st says Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power.
Executives at Green Mountain Power and NRG Energy say they want to build the electrical grid of the future in Vermont.
You can read the story about new technology by Peter Hirshfeld on NHPR's website here.

August 29, 2014

"We're Worth It" : Sen. Ayotte Calls for Burial of Northern Pass Along Roads

Story by Jonathan Koziol, Union Leader
EASTON - Citing a precedent in New York and echoing a recommendation by the town's Conservation Commission, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Thursday said the Northern Pass transmission project should be entirely buried beneath New Hampshire's roads.
Appearing at Easton Town Hall Thursday afternoon, just minutes after having hiked through the Gingerbread Road area to get a closer look at how Northern Pass would affect this town of 270 people, Ayotte said the beauty of the White Mountains should and could be preserved and that the Northern Pass could proceed if the transmission lines were buried "along an existing highway corridor."
That point, as well as a suggestion that Northern Pass consider a second international crossing other than that at Hall's Stream in Pittsburg, was made in an Aug. 18 letter from Ayotte and the rest of the state's Congressional delegation to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Northern Pass would bring hydroelectricity from Quebec into the U.S. along a 187-mile long line in New Hampshire. Northeast Utilities, the corporate parent of Public Service of New Hampshire and Northern Pass Transmission LLC, has an agreement with HydroQuebec for it to lease the Northern Pass transmission lines.
Proponents say the $1.4 billion project will create 1,200 construction jobs, put 1,200 megawatts of renewable electricity into the New England power grid, and, over its 40-year life, will generate some $1 billion in new municipal property tax revenues in New Hampshire.
Opponents of Northern Pass have criticized its intrusion into and despoilment of the North Country, both esthetically and economically.
A presidential permit is needed to allow Canadian power to come into the U.S. and the review process also involves the Department of Defense and the Secretary of State, both of which, Ayotte explained, typically defer to the DOE in energy-transmission cases.
Ned Cutler, who chairs Easton's Board of Selectmen, said that in 2012 the Town Meeting voted unanimously to say it opposed Northern Pass unless it was buried underground. He said yesterday that several property owners have already asked the selectmen how to get abatements because they expected a drop in the assessed values of their properties should Northern Pass go through town above ground.
In 2013, the Easton Conservation Commission took upon itself the task of finding an alternative route for Northern Pass through town and last November it came up with a recommendation that sounded a lot like Ayotte's on Thursday: bury Northern Pass along the Interstate 93 corridor between Bethlehem and Woodstock, thereby entirely avoiding Easton and the White Mountain National Forest in which it sits.
The bury-it-under-the-road approach gained traction earlier this month when the DOE, in reviewing the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express, which would bring power from Canada to the New York Metro Area, said burying 141 miles of the 336-miles of transmission lines under existing highways would be a good idea.
Both Cutler and Conservation Commission Chair Roy Stever said they'd like to see Ayotte push for burying Northern Pass and Ayotte said she would.
The technology exists to bury the transmission lines, Ayotte said, adding that the Easton Conservation Commission recognized that fact as did the DOE with the Champlain Hudson Power Express project.
What the conservation commission proposed just in Easton should be done down the entire length of Northern Pass, said Ayotte, and the DOE should require Northern Pass to study it, and then, ultimately, it should do it.
"We're worth it," said Ayotte, noting that the New York transmission project was also intended to run above ground, but didn't.
After a burst of polite applause died down, Ayotte continue that "This is obviously a very important issue to the Town of Easton and the state."
"This is about all of us," she said, "not just the North Country."

August 11, 2014

Federal Report: Significant Advantages to Burying Northern Pass Type Transmission Lines

Federal Report: Significant Advantages to Burying Transmission Lines

By Chris Jensen, NHPR

A new federal report about an electric transmission project in New York says there are a lot of good reasons to bury such lines and that is likely to give opponents of Northern Pass ammunition in their campaign to get the lines underground...

The U.S. Department of Energy analyzed the impact of the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express, which hopes to carry power from Canada to the New York metro area.

If given final approval by the DOE the route would stretch 336 miles. For about 141 miles the lines would be buried alongside roads or railway lines.

In its final Environmental Impact Statement the DOE concluded burying the lines would make them less vulnerable to storm damage or terrorist attacks. It would also be less disruptive to the environment and reduce maintenance.

“The Champlain Hudson document really confirms that the underground transmission options are economically and technically feasible and in many cases have substantial advantages over the overhead approach that is favored by Northern Pass,” said Christophe Courchesne is an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.

But in a statement Northern Pass spokeswoman Lauren Collins said every energy project is “different and these differences influence design and cost.”

She said Northern Pass estimates burying the line along its existing rights-of-way would cost $15 million to $20 million per mile compared to $3 million per mile for overhead lines.

Officials at Champlain Express have estimated the cost of burying their lines alongside those roads and railway lines will be about $5.5 million per mile.

The project pays the railroad a fee for using the right-of-way but there is no charge for running the lines alongside a highway because it is considered a public benefit, said Andrew Rush, a spokesman for the project.  In the Hudson River and under Lake Champlain payments are made to the state.

Northern Pass says it wants to use its own rights-of-way “obtained by working with willing landowners and using existing power line rights-of-way.”

Using state rights-of-way might require payments to New Hampshire.

The Department of Energy is conducting a similar Environmental Impact Statement on the Northern Pass Project. However, the draft EIS is not expected until late this year.

But it is expected to include – as part of its examination of alternatives – a look at burying the Northern Pass lines.

“The contents of the final EIS demonstrate that burial is a real alternative. The thing is that you have to pick the right route,” said Ken Kimball, the director of research  for the Appalachian Mountain Club which opposes the Northern Pass.