Haverhill – A Massachusetts power company is proposing to build a new 112-mile-long power line that would cut through an 8.9-mile corridor of eastern Haverhill on its way from the Canadian border to southern New Hampshire to deliver electricity to the Massachusetts market.
National Grid on Tuesday unveiled a proposal that it said would largely take advantage of a pre-existing transmission and right of way corridor to string the lines that would transmit Canadian hydro- and wind-generated electricity to the Bay State. The line, called Granite State Power Link, would carry up to 1,200 megawatts of power and save customers $1.1 billion in power costs during the first 10 years of operation, the company said.
“The project, developed next to an existing transmission corridor, will have limited environmental and visual impact, and will deliver significant economic benefits to an area of Vermont that desperately needs an economic boost,” said Dave Snedeker, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, in a news release of the announcement.
The proposed line stands in contrast to Northern Pass, the Eversource and Hydro-Quebec utility project that also looks to carry Canada-generated electricity through New Hampshire and has faced stiffed opposition from opponents for its need to seek right of way access and to build new towers. For the most part, the National Grid proposal would utilize existing infrastructure.
The news of the new power line caught Haverhill officials by surprise.
“I heard about it at 10:44 a.m. this morning when (a representative for National Grid) sent me an email,” said Jo Lacaillade, Haverhill’s town manager. “That’s the first they contacted me.”
Lacaillade said she was waiting to learn more, but as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, she had not yet heard back from National Grid’s representative. She said her concerns included what the towers would look like, if they would need to be heightened in order to accommodate the new power lines and if the proposal would involve seeking expanded right of way access.
But Lacaillade said the existing corridor that National Grid plans to utilize “does not appear to be the same route” that was proposed as an alternative route for the Northern Pass transmission line. The existing corridor, she said, is “to the west of where Northern Pass was going to be.”
Granite State Power Link Project Director Joe Rossignoli said in an interview that expanded right of way access only would be sought for a short stretch at the northern end of the transmission line and a small span at the southern end, which also would require new towers to be installed alongside existing lines.
“But 108 miles would simply be taking existing wire and replacing it with new wire,” he said. He estimated that about 1 out of every 5 towers would need to be replaced. None of the towers would need to be heightened.
The electricity would be transmitted through northeastern Vermont on high voltage, direct current – called HVDC – overhead lines alongside existing HVDC lines, crossing the Canadian border at Norton, Vt., to a converter station in Monroe, N.H.
From Monroe, the proposed line would extend south to Londonderry, N.H., where a switching station would be built.
The existing corridor in Vermont is owned by Vermont Electric Power Co. and National Grid would need to negotiate for access, a spokesperson said via email. The spokesperson added the existing corridor through New Hampshire is owned by National Grid, but where the company needs to expand the right of way, “we will need to negotiate with property owners.”
As for who would generate the power, Rossignoli said National Grid is “currently in discussion” with a number of potential hydro- and wind-generated power supply providers.
“It would certainly be clean power, some combination of hydro and wind,” he said.
He also said that although the electricity is “primarily” targeted to the Massachusetts market, “if utilities in Vermont and New Hampshire are interested, we’d certainly be open to discussing that with them.”
Granite State Power Link is the third proposal that would carry at least 1,000 MW of hydropower and wind power from Quebec into the New England market. (One MW is the power needed to run between 750 and 1,000 homes in New England.)
Eversource and Hydro-Quebec have been trying for years to build Northern Pass, which would bring 1,000 MW down the middle of New Hampshire, while a variety of investors have gotten approval to build New England Green Power, a $1.2 billion plan to bring 1,000 MW into central Vermont using a line that runs under Lake Champlain.
All three proposals would sell the power into the entire New England electricity market, and if all are built they would provide about 10 percent of the electricity used by the six New England states.
The co-investor with National Grid in Granite State Power Link is Citizens Energy Corp., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit founded by Joseph Kennedy II in 1979 that helps develop “clean transmission projects” and uses resulting revenue from selling power “to finance new charitable programs to help low-income families with energy needs,” said Ryan Chaytors, director of business development for the group.
Chaytors said the group would use 50 percent of the money it makes “to fund energy assistance for local families in New Hampshire and Vermont.”
Material from the Concord Monitor was used in this report.