CHESHIRE, Mass. – A proposed renewable energy utility line may pass through town adjacent to existing electricity lines.
Peter Kavanaugh of National Grid said 1.9 miles of the Northeast Renewable Link Transmission Project’s 23-mile utility line will run through Cheshire.
“We want to make sure we are being as proactive and as honest and forthcoming as we can be throughout this process,” he told the Selectmen on Tuesday night. “Obviously, this is just the first step of what we hope is many, but we are still months away, perhaps years away from the permitting process.”
Kavanaugh said the project was unveiled a few months ago. National Grid is the majority owner of the project along with non-profit Citizens Energy Corp. based in Boston.
The project will be bid as part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy request for proposals that was created by the Clean Energy legislation that passed last July. The legislation forces energy companies to distribute specific amounts of energy from different renewable sources by 2022.
Kavanaugh said the lines will be the same as those currently in the transmission corridor. The 345-kilovolt transmission line will be able to deliver 600 megawatts.
“It is a new line adjacent to the current line … there is basically a weak link in the system,” he said. “There is no way to transport clean energy from the Alps substation (in Nassau, N.Y.) all the way over to the Berkshires and then beyond there with the current capacity.”
He said the rights of way will have to be expanded 90 to 100 feet and that the current lines will stay in operation.
The line will run from Nassau, move through Stephentown, cross the border into Berkshire County and end at the Berkshire substation in Hinsdale.
Kavanaugh anticipates a majority of the power will come from wind in upstate New York with a small amount of hydro. The provider will be known once the RFP is accepted.
The capability of the nation’s electrical grid to handle clean energy loads has been stretched, including transmitting wind power from rural areas such as upstate New York to more urban areas where the need is greatest.
“First and foremost, it is bringing new sources of clean energy into the grid here in Mass,” Kavanaugh said. “There will be substantial economic benefits to the host towns though tax revenue as well as job creation.”
He said there will be host community benefits, however, these numbers have yet to be calculated. He said whatever they initially offer the town will act as a baseline.
Citizens Energy also gives 50 percent of its profits to host communities.
“They primarily focus on medium- to low-income families and helping them with heating assistance, home weatherization and some solar and geothermal,” Kavanaugh said. “Part of the conversation over the next year or so is to figure out what each town thinks will be most beneficial.”
Selectwoman Carol Francesconi noted the line somewhat follows the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline path that never came to fruition and added that there will be wetland issues.
Kavanaugh said the line does in places follow the pipeline path and that currently wetlands are still being delineated.
He said there will be a need for some easements and if a deal cannot be struck with property owners, the project will likely not move forward.
“We have started identifying who owns the plot and the parcels and we are going to start reaching out to these folks,” he said. “We are not willing to move ahead with the project if it is not voluntary and we can’t get easements.”
Francesconi added that only four or five property owners should be affected.
Kavanaugh said those who live near the right of way have received mailers explaining the project and providing contact information. He added that a community meeting is planned in the fall.
Bids for electricity suppliers should come in next week and will be accepted in January. He said the permitting process is expected to take 18 months with construction in 2019 or 2020. He said if all goes to plan, the line should be in service by 2021.
“We will see how it goes,” Francesconi said. “We will have more questions as we go along.”
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