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NE Clean Power Link wins OK from Vermont Public Service Board

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 06. 2016 8:31PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A proposed transmission line designed to bring hydroelectricity from Quebec into the New England grid through Vermont cleared its last major hurdle on Tuesday, as the New England Clean Power Link was approved by the Vermont Public Service Board.

The federal Department of Energy approved the project in October.

Opponents of the Northern Pass hydroelectric project in New Hampshire have argued that the Vermont project, which now has state and federal permits, makes Northern Pass obsolete.

Northern Pass representatives say the region could use both projects, but that Northern Pass is the only one with a confirmed source of power (HydroQuebec), and an approval to interconnect to the New England Grid.

The Vermont project developer, TDI New England, is poised to begin construction later this year.

TDI claims to have seven electricity suppliers from Canada and the United States who have “expressed an interest” in using the 1,000-megawatt line, but cannot identify them at this time.

“We are currently in a FERC-mandated open solicitation process, which has confidentiality provisions, so we can’t identify any potential suppliers at this moment,” said TDI spokesperson Andrew Rush.

Northern Pass opponents will be watching closely to see whether HydroQuebec eventually signs a contract to use the Clean Power Link, since such a deal could have significant implications for the New Hampshire project.

Northern Pass has been in the works since 2010, underwent several route changes, does not have a final environmental impact statement from the DOE and is just beginning its state review process.

New York-based TDI, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Investment Group, first announced plans for the Clean Power Link in late 2013, applied to the Department of Energy in 2014, and in December applied for its state permits.

The NECPL will originate at the U.S.-Canadian border and travel approximately 97 miles underwater down Lake Champlain to Benson, Vt., and then be buried along town and state roads and railroad rights-of-way or on land owned by TDI New England for approximately 57 miles to a new converter station to be built in Ludlow, Vt.

In its order granting state approval, the Vermont Public Service board noted, “the installation of the line underground in existing public rights-of-way and underwater in Lake Champlain will help reduce the overall visual impacts of the project.”

It went on to say that construction of the project will not be without impacts.

“A large, above-ground converter station will be built to convert direct current power to alternating current so the project can interconnect with Vermont’s transmission system.

“Additionally, travelers on Vermont highways where the line will be installed underground will likely experience some measure of inconvenience during project construction. However, we conclude that the project’s benefits are significant enough to outweigh any potential negative effects, thus promoting the general good of the state.”

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