Vermont approves cross-border hydroelectric power link

The Vermont Public Service Board has approved a 160-mile long transmission line that will allow for the import of Canadian hydroelectric power into the New England region.

The $1.2 billion New England Clean Power Link, proposed by Champlain VT LLC doing business as TDI New England, could deliver about 1,000 MW of power to the region if constructed.

The “Certificate of Public Good” awarded by the state’s public service board is Vermont’s comprehensive siting and environmental regulatory approval required by TDI New England to construct and operate the project.

“This approval is the result of significant regulatory review, public input and consultation with stakeholders,” TDI New England CEO Donald Jessome said. “We are pleased that the final result is a project that is supported and approved in Vermont. The certificate brings us one step closer to delivering the benefits of clean, reliable, low-cost power to the residents and businesses of Vermont, and southern New England.”

The high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line would stretch from a point near the U.S./Canada border at Alburgh, Vt., south to Ludlow before connecting hydropower-rich Quebec with the existing Coolidge Substation in Cavendish.

TDI New England said about 100 miles of the HVDC line would be buried in the bed at Lake Champlain, with an additional 60 miles of overland line to be buried within existing public road and railroad rights-of-way.

The certification has the support of a number of utilities and state and local agencies, including Vermont’s Public Services Department, Agency of Transportation, Agency of Natural Resources, Division for Historic Preservation; the Conservation Law Foundation; the towns of Alburgh, Benson and Ludlow; and Green Mountain Power, the Burlington Electric Department and Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO).

“This is one of the largest energy projects in Vermont,” said Sandra Levin, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “TDI New England addressed a variety of impacts in a responsible manner. They have worked well with stakeholders and have demonstrated that large energy projects can meet high environmental standards.”

The developer said the project will contribute more than $720 million in direct public benefit payments to the state over its 40-year lifespan through dedicated funds, lease payments, environmental protections and other benefits. The line is also expected to provide the New England region with $1.9 billion in energy savings.

TDI New England said it will likely file a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its approval later this year, but that construction on the transmission line could begin in 2017 with service beginning by mid-2019.

The New England Clean Power Link is one of several cross-border transmission lines being discussed for the United States’ northeastern region. Also prominent is HydroQuebec’s controversial 1,096-MW Northern Pass line, which was approved with a unanimous vote by New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee in December.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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