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Public meetings start for Granite State Power Link, a Northern Pass-like proposal

  • A map shows proposed routes for the Northern Pass and Granite State Power Link transmission lines from Quebec.

  • National Grid wants to bring Canadian power south to Massachusetts, using lines it owns that run through the Concord area. The project would use the AC lines on the smaller towers in this photo, and would not require widening the right-of-way or replacing most towers. The larger, central tower, which carries high voltage DC power, would not be affected. This set of lines crosses Route 9/202 in Hopkinton near Whittier Pond. GEOFF FORESTER



Monitor staff
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Even as official state hearings about Northern Pass continue for the third month, public discussions are beginning about a similar proposal to carry electricity through New Hampshire.

The informal “community sessions,” including one scheduled for Tuesday, July 18, in Webster, are being held by National Grids as a public introduction to what it’s calling Granite State Power Link.

“These will be trade-show style open house events,” Shannon Baxevanis, manager of Granite State Power Link, said Tuesday. “There are no formal presentations, just more of a two-way conversation.”

The first session was held last night in Littleton, where the power lines will cross from Vermont. A second discussion is set for Monday, July 17, at Town Hall in Monroe. All meetings, including the July 18 meeting in Webster, run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

More meetings will be scheduled in towns along the proposed route, which ends in Londonderry.

Construction could not begin until mid-2020 at the earliest, with service beginning no sooner than late 2022.

Granite State Power Link is a plan to carry 1,200 megawatts of wind and probably hydroelectric power from Quebec into Massachusetts. Despite the New Hampshire-centric name, a third of the line would run through Vermont.

The plan is similar to Northern Pass, which seeks to carry 1,000 megawatts of Quebec hydropower through New Hampshire into New England’s grid, but the two plans have significant differences.

Granite State Power Link is proposed by National Grid, which has electric and natural gas business in Massachusetts and New York, in partnership with Citizens Energy, a Massachusetts nonprofit. Citizens Energy helps develop “clean transmission projects” and uses revenue from selling the power to aid low-income families with their energy needs. National Grid said it plans to use 50 percent of the money it makes from Power Link to fund energy assistance for families in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Northern Pass, on the other hand, would be owned by Eversource. HydroQuebec, which is owned by the province of Quebec, would have a 40-year lease to exclusively use the lines to carry its electricity, where it would be sold on the open market.

Power Link would buy electricity from a variety of renewable sources in Quebec.

Both proposals hope to be chosen by the Massachusetts clean energy program, set up by that state’s Legislature to buy a large amount of renewable energy, including hydropower. Bids are due by the end of July, and the state will announce its providers this coming winter.

If Granite State Power Link is chosen by the Bay State, the roughly $1 billion construction costs would be covered by Massachusetts electric rates, with no cost to New Hampshire, Baxevanis said. As part of that arrangement, however, none of its electricity would be available in New Hampshire or Vermont.

The Massachusetts clean-energy program triggered National Grid’s decision to propose Power Link in March – an announcement that came as a surprise to many who had been following the six-year debate over Northern Pass.

If Massachusetts doesn’t choose Power Link as a provider for the project, its future would be uncertain, although Baxevanis said, “We would continue to look to pursue the project.”

Power Link has one big advantage over Northern Pass in New Hampshire: It needs much less construction.

National Grid proposes using a power line right of way that it has operated for decades. That corridor has a high-voltage DC line that carries Quebec power through Vermont and New Hampshire to Ayer, Mass.

Most of that power line and towers would not be affected if Granite State Power Link is built. About 6 miles of corridor would have to be expanded in Littleton.

In New Hampshire, Granite State Power Link proposes carrying power on existing current towers, upgrading them from 230 kilovolts AC to 345 kilovolts AC, using thicker wires and longer insulators. This would require no expansion of the right of way, Baxevanis said.

Baxevanis said roughly four of every five of the existing 60-foot towers would remain, while the others would be replaced with towers that could be as tall as 80 feet. That would still make them shorter than the 110-foot-tall DC towers that run down the corridor already.

The situation on the Vermont side is different. For the 58 miles in that state, National Grid proposes building a new high-voltage DC line parallel to the existing HVDC line. That would require new towers and also require expanding the right of way by roughly 150 feet.

Eversource has said in the past that the environmental and regulatory issues involved with that expansion are some of the reasons it didn’t try to bring Northern Pass down through Vermont.

National Grid and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 have announced a Memorandum of Understanding for union workers to be used on the project.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

y DAVID BROOKS

Even as official state hearings about Northern Pass continue for their third month, public discussions are beginning about a similar proposal to carry electricity through New Hampshire.

The informal “community sessions,” including one scheduled for Tuesday evening in Webster, are being held by National Grid as a public introduction to its idea to build what it’s calling Granite State Power Link.

“These will be trade-show style open house events,” Shannon Baxevanis, manager of Granite State Power Link, said Tuesday. “There are no formal presentations, just more of a two-way conversation.”

The first session was held Tuesday night in Littleton, where the power lines will cross from Vermont. A second discussion is set for Monday, July 17, at Monroe Town Hall. along with the July 18 meeting in Webster, they all run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

More meetings will be scheduled in towns along the proposed route, which runs to Londonderry.

Construction could not begin until mid-2020 at the earliest, with service beginning no sooner than late 2022.

Granite State Power Link is a plan to carry 1,200 megawatts of wind and probably hydroelectric power from Quebec into Massachusetts. Despite the New Hampshire-centric name, a third of the line would run through Vermont.

It is similar to Northern Pass, which seeks to carry 1,000 megawatts of Quebec hydropower through New Hampshire into New England’s grid, but the two plans have significant differences.

Granite State Power Link is proposed by National Grid, which has electric and natural gas business in Massachusetts and New York, in partnership with Citizens Energy, a Massachusetts nonprofit. Citizens Energy helps develop “clean transmission projects” and uses revenue from selling the power to aid low-income families with their energy needs. It said it plans to use 50 percent of the money it makes from Power Link to fund energy assistance for families in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Northern Pass, on the other hand, would be owned by Eversource and HydroQuebec, which is owned by the province of Quebec. It would sell HydroQuebec power on the open market.

Power Link would buy electricity from a variety of renewable sources in Quebec.

Both proposals hope to be chosen by the Massachusetts clean energy program, set up by that state’s legislature to buy a large amount of renewable energy, including hydropower. Bids are due by the end of July and the state will announce its providers this coming winter.

If Granite State power Link is chosen by the Bay State, the roughly $1 billion construction costs would be covered by Massachusetts electric rates, with no cost to New Hampshire, said Baxevanis. As part of that arrangement, however, none of its electricity would be available in New Hampshire or Vermont.

The Massachusetts clean-energy program triggered NationalGrid’s decision to proposed Power Grid in March – an announcement that came as a surprise to many who had been following the six-year debate over Northern Pass.

If Massachusetts doesn’t choose Power Link as a provider for the project, its future would uncertain although Baxevanis said “we would continue to look to pursue the project.”

Power Link has one big advantage over Northern Pass in New Hampshire: It needs much less construction.

National Grid proposes using a power line right-of-way that it has operated for decades. That corridor has a high voltage DC line which carries Quebec power through Vermont and New Hampshire to Ayer, Mass.

Most of that power line and towers would not be affected if Granite State Power Link is built. About six miles of corridor would have to be expanded in Littleton.

In New Hampshire, Granite State Power Link proposes carrying power on existing current towers, upgrading them from 230 kilovolts AC to 345 kilovolts AC, using thicker wires and longer insulators. This would require no expansion of the right-of-way, said Baxevanis.

Baxevanis said roughly four out of every five of the existing 60-foot towers would remain, while the others would be replaced with towers that could be as tall as 80 feet. That would still make them shorter than the 110-foot-tall DC towers which run down the corridor already.

The situation on the Vermont side is different. For the 58 miles in that state, National Grid proposes to build a new high-voltage DC line parallel to the exist HVDC line. That would require new towers and also require expanding the right-of-way by roughly 150 feet.

Eversource has said in the past that the environmental and regulatory issues involved with that expansion is one reason it didn’t try to bring Northern Pass down through Vermont.

National Grid and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 have announced a Memorandum of Understanding for union workers to be used on the project.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)