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Northern Pass rival reaches deal with Vt. utility to build overhead transmission line

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 13. 2018 6:49AM

A rival power project to Northern Pass announced Monday it had reached agreement with a Vermont utility to run a proposed overhead transmission line through Vermont to connect in New Hampshire.

But not all the needed land for the Granite State Power Link (GSPL) project is under its control yet — and won’t be until perhaps mid-2019, according to project manager Joe Rossignoli.

“We have in place a collaborative plan to obtain easements and already have a number of agreements in place with key easement holders and landowners,” project spokesman Christine Milligan said.

Northern Pass, which a state committee recently rejected, spent years assembling land parcels to develop a 192-mile route it controlled — sometimes countered by project opponents who would make their own land deals to try and block the project.

Vermont Electric Power Company and GridAmerica Holdings, Inc. — a part of National Grid Ventures that is an affiliate of National Grid — announced Monday they had signed a memorandum of understanding and a services agreement.

The $1.1 billion project — which would deliver 1,200 megawatts of Canadian wind power — would construct a new 59-mile overhead transmission line with 53 miles built adjacent to the Vermont utility’s existing transmission line in Vermont.

Another 6 miles would see an existing right of way in Littleton and Monroe in New Hampshire expanded between 75 and 150 feet. The 6-mile section is a mix of privately held land and conservation easements.

Officials are working to assemble the needed land to build the project and have all required permits by late 2019 and be in service by late 2022, Rossignoli said.

GSPL also includes upgrading an existing transmission line running through about 106 miles of National Grid’s existing right-of-way plus another 2 miles of existing right-of-way in Londonderry that would need to be widened between 66 and 80 feet.

“In Vermont, the properties in the expanded right-of-way are either privately held, under conservation easement or federal land,” Milligan said.

Northern Pass spokeswoman Kaitlyn Woods said Northern Pass officials “reviewed many potential project routes, including the use of the existing right-of-way now targeted by National Grid.

“Our application for a presidential permit, since approved, included the results of our analysis, which found that the right-of-way in question would not be suitable due to the presence of existing infrastructure,” she said.

GSPL’s Milligan differed.

The independent manager of the New England power grid, ISO-NE, did a technical study on the GSPL project in that corridor and found it feasible, Milligan said.

“Additionally, based on the many months of on-the-ground data collection, analysis and engineering that we’ve done with VELCO (Vermont Electric Power Company), the utility that operates a large portion of that existing corridor, we know it to be viable,” she said.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission released an order approving a 40-year lease agreement between Eversource and Northern Pass Transmission for leased land and easement rights for $15 million, a deal previously announced. The approval is contingent on Northern Pass receiving a certificate of site and facility from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.

Two of the three PUC members approving the deal also serve on the SEC, which unanimously rejected Northern Pass’s application Feb. 1.

Northern Pass plans to file a motion asking the SEC to reconsider its denial.

Northern Pass would transmit 1,090 megawatts of hydropower from Canada via a 192-mile route through more than 30 Granite State communities. About 60 miles would be underground. Its in-service date was late 2020 prior to the SEC denying its application.

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