Monday, July 25, 2011

Missing in Action: "Digging into underground. . ."

Late on Friday, July 22, 2011, Northern Pass posted "Digging into underground" on its website. By Monday morning, July 25, the post was gone. Northern Pass had taken it down, and we hardly knew ye! Here today, gone tomorrow. . . .The post was so historic, such a change of course on Northern Pass's part after ten months of telling the public that burying the lines was not possible, that we saved it. It is reproduced below for posterity's sake. Following that is an excerpt from the July 17th Union Leader, which contains Northern Pass's first public statement on line burial in reponse to Northeast Energy Link's announcement.
Project Journal
National Grid and Bangor Hydro Electric Company recently announced a proposed “Northeast Energy Link,” that could transmit 1,100 megawatts of energy along a 220 mile long High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) line that may be placed underground.
So, what is our view of this announcement?
We see this filing as a positive step toward the development of wind energy resources in Maine, and we’re also pleased that NEL has adopted the “participant funded” approach that originated with The Northern Pass. (Costs associated with the transmission line construction will be recovered through the sale of energy, instead of through a transmission charge.)
The NEL proposal includes several interesting distinctions, as we note on a comparison table: The project’s energy sources include more expensive, above-market wind power generators that have yet to be built, and that are dependent on customer subsidies in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates; and, the project will rely on Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs), to ensure the recovery of its higher costs.
This makes The Northern Pass look simple by comparison. Our project requires no subsidies; no PPAs are required to deliver the benefits of renewable power; and, its hydro electric power from existing sources is competitive on price with all fuel sources. (Reminder: PSNH is seeking its own PPA with Hydro Qu├ębec for a portion of the energy transmitted on The Northern Pass, in order to achieve additional economic benefit for New Hampshire.)
We’ve previously indicated that the use of conventional High Voltage Direct Current underground cable technology may not make sense for The Northern Pass because of environmental, reliability and economic challenges.
The NEL proposal speaks to the possible use of so-called “HVDC Light” underground technology.
This evolving technology has never been used on a project of the length or size of The Northern Pass or NEL. Nevertheless, we are, and will continue to assess the technologies’ operation, reliability, environmental and economic attributes relative to The Northern Pass.

From the Union Leader, July 17, 2011

Northern Pass eyes buried line


New Hampshire Union Leader

A new proposal by National Grid to increase the power supply in New England has opponents of a different project asking this question: If National Grid’s project — the Northeast Energy Link — can use an underground line, why can’t developers of the proposed Northern
Pass project do the same?

As proposed, Northern Pass would transmit hydro-electric power from Canada, through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts using an aboveground transmission line. Northern Pass is a joint venture proposed by Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of
 New Hampshire, and NStar. Northern Pass officials have said using an underground line would be too expensive.

Statements issued Friday afternoon suggest they may be revisiting the issue.

PSNH spokesperson Michael Skelton said in an email: “We have been following the development of the technology cited in the NEL project filing and its technical benefits and limitations. From the time we made our original filing at DOE, we have said that this is an evolving process — from line location to tower height to underground application — the project continues to evolve. We continue to evaluate the state of the art of transmission technology, including underground solutions, to develop the most efficient system that will deliver the many benefits of this project for New Hampshire and the region.”

Skelton later issued a second statement: “As part of our efforts on the Northern Pass, we are continuing to respond to feedback we’ve received over the past several months about line routing, view shed impacts, and finding ways to mitigate, to the extent possible, the issues that have been expressed about the project. During this time, we’ve been asked about the use of placing the proposed line underground.

“Using conventional underground technology, we’ve indicated that underground posed environmental, reliability and economic challenges that could make its use prohibitive for this project. The use of the newer, stateof- the art ‘HVDC Light’ type of underground technology is one that we have also been reviewing and continuing to assess as it is being tested and applied to a variety of projects in the U.S. and around the world.

“We are studying its operational, reliability, environmental and economic attributes to determine its potential applicability to the Northern Pass project, given the capacity of the proposed line (1200 MWs), the distance of the line, and the topography of New Hampshire.”

The Conservation Law Foundation of New Hampshire has questioned in the past why PSNH couldn’t use underground wires. . . .