Undersea cable could bring 'green' power to Hub
Feb 14, 2007 - Tribune Business News
As two companies press ahead on projects
bringing natural gas to Boston through offshore terminals,
a third group is also looking to the sea for a new
source of energy -- a 140-mile underwater electric
cable from Maine to South Boston.
The project, which could bring enough
electricity into the Hub to meet the needs of about
500,000 homes, has only started to run the gantlet
of state and federal approvals and isn't expected
to be in service before 2013.
Backers of the project call it "The
Green Line" because, they contend, the cable would
unsnarl current transmission-line bottlenecks and
enable delivery into Greater Boston of huge quantities
of so-called green power generated by Maine wind turbines,
hydroelectric generators driven by ocean tides, and
power plants that run on wood waste from paper and
Whether that new power flow merely meets
growth in demand or whether it supplants electricity
generated by fossil fuels at Eastern Massachusetts
power plants isn't yet known.
New England Independent Transmission
Co. LLC, chaired by Edward N. Krapels , managing director
of Energy Security Analysis Inc., a Wakefield energy
market research and consulting firm, is proposing
to build the project.
Krapels was a founding member of Atlantic
Energy Partners LLC, which in June 2005 began constructing
an underwater high-voltage transmission line from
New Jersey to Long Island, called Neptune RTS. That
power line is scheduled go into use sometime this
Seth Kaplan, senior attorney with the
Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston environmental
group, said, "Its stated purpose of bringing renewable
energy from Maine and eastern Canada down to Boston
is a good one. However, the environmental impacts
of the project itself need to be closely examined."
Green Line backers have only started
evaluating what, if any, effect the ocean-floor cable
could have on marine life.
In March 2005, the Maine Public Utilities
Commission predicted that enough wind turbines could
be developed in the state to power 750,000 to 1.5
million homes, in addition to extensive tidal power
and wood "biomass" generation. But Kaplan said nothing
guarantees that only "green" power -- rather than
electricity produced by coal- and gas-fueled power
plants in Canada -- would flow through the undersea
line to Boston.
The cable would run from the site of
the deactivated Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in
Wiscasset, Maine, to an as-yet-undetermined location
in South Boston's waterfront industrial zone near
a major electric switching station on K Street.
The cable would carry up to 660 megawatts
of power, as much as the Pilgrim nuclear station in
Plymouth generates. While long-distance underwater
cable technology is proven -- the Cross Sound Cable
between Long Island and Connecticut went into service
in 2004, and a 55-mile cable under San Francisco Bay
is set to start operating next year -- high-voltage
transmission projects can be tricky.
NStar Electric is still struggling,
eight months after its initial deadline, to activate
a new 18-mile, 345,000-volt underground power line
from South Boston to Stoughton. Company officials
hope to have it working by spring.
James W. Hunt III , energy and environmental
adviser to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, called the
Green Line transmission line plan "intriguing."
"Any project that can help address Boston's
power needs without building more dirty power plants
is something certainly worth looking at and worth
considering," Hunt said. He added that the cable-terminus
building must also be acceptable to Southie residents.
Local power grid officials said they
can't yet support or oppose the Green Line project.
"We support transmission upgrades that
are identified through our regional system planning
process," said Ken McDonnell, spokesman for Independent
System Operator New England , the Holyoke organization
that runs the six-state power grid.
The latest system plan didn't identify
a need for a project like Krapels's, McDonnell said,
but the ISO would welcome his company "getting involved
in the process."
Plans for the new electric line come
as two gas companies, Excelerate Energy LLC and Neptune
Energy LLC, a Suez North America subsidiary, are moving
through environmental reviews that would lead to construction
of liquefied natural gas unloading facilities about
10 miles off the coast of Gloucester.