ALBANY – State officials on Monday named two competing bidders as the winners in a long-awaited search for companies that can bring clean power to New York City – with both saying they will bury their transmission lines under the Hudson River.
The state Energy Research and Development Authority awarded the bids to two consortiums: The Champlain Hudson Power Express, which plans to transport power from hydroelectric plants in northern Quebec; and Clean Path New York, a partnership between the quasi-public New York Power Authority, Invenergy, and energyRE, solar power.
The lines by the end of the decade should power 2.5 million homes in and around New York City with carbon-free electricity, eliminating the need for numerous existing fossil fuel plants in the area.
The Champlain, or CHPE line, to be built by Transmission Developers Inc., would run 338 miles from the Canadian border to New York City, with most of the line under the Hudson as well as Lake Champlain. The project is owned by the Blackstone Group investment firm. It will have between 1,000 and 1,250 Megawatts or MW of capacity. It should be delivering power to New York City by 2025.
Clean Path NY’s 1,300 MW line would run 174 miles from Delaware County to the Hudson River and then to New York City, carrying power from solar and wind plants. It also would have augmented power from the existing Blenheim-Gilboa pumped storage dam and hydro plant in Schoharie County. That line should be up and running by 2027.
By awarding the bid to two different companies, NYSERDA and Gov. Kathy Hochul – whose office put out Monday’s announcement – appears to be aiming at a compromise.
The Champlain line offers the promise of existing clean energy from the Province of Quebec’s massive hydro projects in the north. But it has drawn criticism from in-state developers, as well as New York trade unions, who wanted in on the work as well.
Gavin Donohue, president and CEO of the Independent Power Producers or NY, which represents power plant operators, kept up that criticism on Monday. He described giving half the award to CHPE as a “missed opportunity.” His group wanted the CHPE line to be equipped with an inverter, or equipment that would let upstate power generators plug into the line, rather than it exclusively carrying Canadian hydroelectricity.
But a number of trade union leaders hailed Hochul’s decision on Monday since it does have at least some in-state power production. The deal also calls for project labor agreements ensuring union participation.
Hochul’s announcement also sends a signal that she remains committed to following through on the expansive clean-energy goals set up by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned last month amid a sexual harassment scandal.
“These transformative projects are a win-win—delivering thousands of new good-paying jobs throughout the state and attracting billions of dollars in private investment. They also help us turn the page on New York City’s long-standing dependence on fossil fuels,” Hochul said in making the announcement.
“New York has not made this level of investment in energy infrastructure since the late 1950s to early 1960s,” remarked NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones.
CHPE and Clean Path were among the 13 separate proposals put forth for the project.
The projects still need final contract negotiations and approval from the Public Service Commission, but many of the needed approvals and rights of way have already been granted.
Both projects will be expensive and are expected to create thousands of jobs during construction. Hochul’s office said they will spur $8.2 billion worth of investment and economic activity.
Getting clean power to the highly populated New York City and surrounding areas is a key challenge in meeting the state’s goal of having a 70 percent carbon-free power grid by 2035.
Upstate New York, with its large existing hydro-plants along the St. Lawrence River and in Niagara Falls, and with its wide open spaces conducive to large solar and wind farms, has and will continue to have an excess of cheap green power. But getting that power to the city where it is needed has been constrained by the limited number of transmission lines.
By moving solar, hydro and wind power along these lines, a number of older, carbon-emitting gas and oil plants in the city can be closed or minimized.
“This,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “This is a transformative moment for New York City’s fight against climate change.”
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