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Power project called sensitive to environment - Dan Heath - Press-Republican

Power project called sensitive to environment

Apr 30, 2010 - Dan Heath - Press-Republican

Developers are touting the environmental advantages of a proposed project to bring renewable energy to New York City and Connecticut.

Transmission Developers Inc.'s $3.8 billion Champlain-Hudson Power Express project would be a 355-mile high-voltage, direct-current transmission line to bring up to 2,000 megawatts of mainly Canadian electricity to those two areas, split evenly between the two.

The 1,000 megawatts to be delivered to each converter station is enough to power about 1 million homes, Transmission Developers President Donald Jessome said.

Jessome and members of his team recently made a public presentation on the project at the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce.

"If you don't work with the communities, it's a difficult situation for everyone," he said.

Jessome said the team decided early on to use a high-voltage direct-current system. One reason was it allows the cables to be buried.

"There will be no towers in people's back yards," he said.

Plans call for the four approximately 5-inch cables to run from Montreal through the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal system and Hudson River.

Two lines will go to a substation in Yonkers, and two will connect to a substation in Bridgeport, Conn.

A portion of the lines will be buried along a railroad right-of-way to avoid the area of the Hudson River affected by PCB dredging.

The cable installation is designed to be minimally invasive. The cable will be lowered from a ship and guided by GPS, sonar and video systems to keep it on the optimal route.

Once the cable is on the lake bed, a burying machine will use water jets to carve a trench about three feet deep and only a couple of inches wider than the cable. When obstacles are encountered, the machine will pause until the obstruction is cleared by the water jets.

"It has very little impact on the sea bed," Jessome said. "Within a few days, it will appear that nothing ever happened."

Another environmental advantage is that buried cables, whether under water or under ground, don't emit controversial electromagnetic fields like those created in aerial transmission systems, Jessome said.

The website states the cables are solid and made from non-flammable materials. They are well insulated and don't contain any liquids or gels.

If a cable is snagged by an anchor or receives some other form of damage, the system is designed to reduce current and voltage in a fraction of a second. That leaves no chance of damage to people, wildlife or infrastructure, according to the company.

The power transmitted will come mainly from new Canadian renewable hydropower and wind-power sources currently in development.

The team is looking at ways to enable New York renewable-energy producers to send power to Canada and then down through the new system.

Jessome said the project would reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions by about 10 percent, nitrogen oxide by 15 percent and carbon dioxide by about 5 percent compared with traditional power sources.

Transmission Developers is working closely with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to ensure that the route doesn't cause damage to any historic sites, such as shipwrecks.

"They've actually been helping us design the route so we can avoid those cultural resources," Jessome said.

The Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, is the lead investor. Transmission Developers has submitted an application for funding under Phase 2 of the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program.

An economic analysis conducted by London Economics International LLC shows that the low-cost, low-carbon electricity the system will bring is expected to lower overall electricity prices in New York and New England.

LEI forecasts that will save ratepayers billions of dollars during the first 10 years of commercial operation.

The project is meant to address areas that were identified as difficult places to send energy, based on a U.S. Department of Energy study after the 2003 blackouts in the Northeast, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.

Two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors were identified. The Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor runs through parts of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The other one is in Southern California.

The project needs a number of federal and state approvals.

The U.S. Department of Energy needs to issue a presidential permit for electric transmission systems that cross the international border.

Jessome said Transmission Developers submitted that application in January.

Federal environmental oversight is under the Department of Energy's National Environmental Policy Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handles permits for work in navigable waters.

The project also has to be approved by the New York State Public Service Commission and several state agencies.

The project is expected to create about 200 jobs for around three years as the cable is set in place and the converter stations are constructed.

Jessome said Transmission Developers expects to start construction of the converter stations in the third quarter of 2011.

Cable installation will likely start in 2012 and last into 2014.

The line could be in service by late 2014 or early 2015, Jessome said.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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