New England Clean Power Link clears regulatory hurdle

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Backers of a proposed 1,000 megawatt (MW) underground and underwater transmission line from eastern Canada to power markets in the U.S. cleared a key regulatory hurdle after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a presidential permit authorizing construction of the project.

Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI), owned by Blackstone Portfolio, announced it had received the permit last week for the 154-mile, $1.2 billion power line, called the New England Clean Power Link.  The line will connect Hydro Quebec’s hydro and wind resources to load centers in the United States, including in Vermont and Massachusetts.

“This interconnection is a vital link that will unleash low-carbon, cost-effective electricity from Canada for the benefit of New England, replacing fossil fuel generators and lowering energy prices,” said TDI CEO Donald Jessom in a statement.  Jessom said construction could start in late June 2017 or early 2018.

In addition to the presidential permit, the project recently secured regulatory authorization by ISO-New England (ISO-NE), the region’s grid operator, who approved the project’s application.  By receiving ISO-NE’s blessing, the New England Clean Power Link has demonstrated it can reliably connect to  the region’s electrical grid.

The DOE issued the presidential permit after receiving concurring opinions by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, which includes the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The power line would run north to south under Lake Champlain, which sits between northern New York State and Vermont on the U.S.-Canadian border.  Jessom said the line would sit on the lake bottom where the lake is deepest, and then be buried underneath the bottom where the water is shallower in order to avoid impacting boat anchors and fishing lines.  It would then come ashore in Benson, Vermont, and be buried for another 55 miles southeast toward Cavendish, where it will connect with the Coolidge substation.

The project has the backing of key lawmakers and officials in the region, including Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has been a key champion of the project.

“The New England Clean Power Link is a well-designed, innovative transmission project that the Green Mountain State looks forward to hosting. The project will help reduce carbon emissions in our region, provide ratepayer benefits for Vermont, and will fund important Vermont-based programs, including support for our Clean Energy Development Fund and the cleanup of Lake Champlain.”

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