CONCORD — The concept of using state-owned land for a publicly owned underground utility corridor — and charging rent — is being explored by a legislative study group. Maine has developed such a corridor along the Interstate 95 median.
New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and Department of Transportation officials met with the 361 Commission last week to give an overview of existing transmission lines and transportation corridors. A utility corridor could mean millions in annual revenue for state coffers.
Maine has a proposal to bury 220 miles of power lines for the Northeast Energy Link, or NEL, which would deliver up to 1,100 megawatts of renewable power to the New England grid.
NEL is somewhat similar to the Northern Pass. But that project would be above-ground, using about 1,100 steel lattice towers varying in height from 80 to 135 feet for 180 miles from Pittsburg to Deerfield. The 1,200-megawatt project, being proposed by Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities, has residents squaring off over views, property values and loss of habitat in the affected areas.
State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, is chairing the study committee, which met Thursday.
Chuck Schmidt of the Department of Transportation told panel members that the state owns the land for Interstate 93, with the exception of a portion through the White Mountain National Forest and a smaller amount owned by the Department of Resources and Economic Development. He said it might require a federal easement for development of an underground corridor within the national forest.
Other roads, such as I-89 and Route 101, are owned largely by easement. Schmidt said the DOT suggests the commission focus more on its owned corridor, where the state would have more control.
George R. McCluskey, assistant director of wholesale electric markets for the Public Utilities Commission, walked study committee members through the world of electrical transmission.
They learned about the Independent System Operator-New England and how it maps out and forecasts potential problems with transmission and distribution, as well as develops plans to improve infrastructure every 10 years.
The panel also got to hear the difference between projects needed for system reliability and merchant projects.
ISO has deemed Northern Pass a proposed merchant project, meaning it is not necessary for the grid to operate, but is a commercial venture that could add more power into the grid.
Northern Pass officials say the project would help reduce overall electric costs in the region, add a huge tax benefit to the more than 30 towns it goes through and provide 1,200 jobs during construction.