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Public meetings start for Granite State Power Link, a Northern Pass-like proposal  

Granite State Power Link is a plan to carry 1,200 megawatts of wind and probably hydroelectric power from Quebec into Massachusetts. Despite the New Hampshire-centric name, a third of the line would run through Vermont.

It is similar to Northern Pass, which seeks to carry 1,000 megawatts of Quebec hydropower through New Hampshire into New England’s grid, but the two plans have significant differences.

Credit:  By David Brooks, Monitor Staff | Concord Monitor | July 12, 2017 | www.concordmonitor.com ~~

Even as official state hearings about Northern Pass continue for their third month, public discussions are beginning about a similar proposal to carry electricity through New Hampshire.

The informal “community sessions,” including one scheduled for Tuesday evening in Webster, are being held by National Grid as a public introduction to its idea to build what it’s calling Granite State Power Link.

“These will be trade-show style open house events,” Shannon Baxevanis, manager of Granite State Power Link, said Tuesday. “There are no formal presentations, just more of a two-way conversation.”

The first session was held Tuesday night in Littleton, where the power lines will cross from Vermont. A second discussion is set for Monday, July 17, at Monroe Town Hall. along with the July 18 meeting in Webster, they all run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

More meetings will be scheduled in towns along the proposed route, which runs to Londonderry.

Construction could not begin until mid-2020 at the earliest, with service beginning no sooner than late 2022.

Granite State Power Link is a plan to carry 1,200 megawatts of wind and probably hydroelectric power from Quebec into Massachusetts. Despite the New Hampshire-centric name, a third of the line would run through Vermont.

It is similar to Northern Pass, which seeks to carry 1,000 megawatts of Quebec hydropower through New Hampshire into New England’s grid, but the two plans have significant differences.

Granite State Power Link is proposed by National Grid, which has electric and natural gas business in Massachusetts and New York, in partnership with Citizens Energy, a Massachusetts nonprofit. Citizens Energy helps develop “clean transmission projects” and uses revenue from selling the power to aid low-income families with their energy needs. It said it plans to use 50 percent of the money it makes from Power Link to fund energy assistance for families in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Northern Pass, on the other hand, would be owned by Eversource and HydroQuebec, which is owned by the province of Quebec. It would sell HydroQuebec power on the open market.

Power Link would buy electricity from a variety of renewable sources in Quebec.

Both proposals hope to be chosen by the Massachusetts clean energy program, set up by that state’s legislature to buy a large amount of renewable energy, including hydropower. Bids are due by the end of July and the state will announce its providers this coming winter.

If Granite State power Link is chosen by the Bay State, the roughly $1 billion construction costs would be covered by Massachusetts electric rates, with no cost to New Hampshire, said Baxevanis. As part of that arrangement, however, none of its electricity would be available in New Hampshire or Vermont.

The Massachusetts clean-energy program triggered NationalGrid’s decision to proposed Power Grid in March – an announcement that came as a surprise to many who had been following the six-year debate over Northern Pass.

If Massachusetts doesn’t choose Power Link as a provider for the project, its future would uncertain although Baxevanis said “we would continue to look to pursue the project.”

Power Link has one big advantage over Northern Pass in New Hampshire: It needs much less construction.

National Grid proposes using a power line right-of-way that it has operated for decades. That corridor has a high voltage DC line which carries Quebec power through Vermont and New Hampshire to Ayer, Mass.

Most of that power line and towers would not be affected if Granite State Power Link is built. About six miles of corridor would have to be expanded in Littleton.

In New Hampshire, Granite State Power Link proposes carrying power on existing current towers, upgrading them from 230 kilovolts AC to 345 kilovolts AC, using thicker wires and longer insulators. This would require no expansion of the right-of-way, said Baxevanis.

Baxevanis said roughly four out of every five of the existing 60-foot towers would remain, while the others would be replaced with towers that could be as tall as 80 feet. That would still make them shorter than the 110-foot-tall DC towers which run down the corridor already.

The situation on the Vermont side is different. For the 58 miles in that state, National Grid proposes to build a new high-voltage DC line parallel to the exist HVDC line. That would require new towers and also require expanding the right-of-way by roughly 150 feet.

Eversource has said in the past that the environmental and regulatory issues involved with that expansion is one reason it didn’t try to bring Northern Pass down through Vermont.

National Grid and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 have announced a Memorandum of Understanding for union workers to be used on the project.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)

IF YOU GO

What: Granite State Power Link Community Meeting

Where: Webster Town Hall, 945 Battle St.

When: Tuesday, July 18, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Source:  By David Brooks, Monitor Staff | Concord Monitor | July 12, 2017 | www.concordmonitor.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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